Let the Prognosticating Begin

There’s a fair amount of folly intrinsic to predicting the future. (See this roundup of predictions for 2020 that now seem pretty outlandish. Houses would fly? Roads replaced by pneumatic tubes?) But the forecasts and trends to watch that are everywhere this time of year are revealing, too.

The things experts, journalists, and other prognosticators are telling us to expect for higher ed in the years to come often reflect the things that worry us most: Inequality will only increase, this former college president says. “Big Brother U” is “in” for 2020 on this annual list.

And the looks ahead can help us see what’s hanging in the balance and where change might be possible: Whether colleges do better for adult learners makes more than one list of what to watch in higher ed this year.

Here are two of the most-common predictions that came up in reading through the recent forecasts for higher ed:

Colleges are going to close. A lot of them, if you believe some futurists. One predicts the demise of more than 100 over the next decade. Another looks out into the higher ed mists of 2040 and sees as many as 500 colleges shutting down.

Some are quick to temper those predictions. Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, says that the rate of college closures is actually still modest despite an increasingly dominant narrative that higher ed is in crisis. Still, the issue makes his annual top 10 list. Here’s what he expects: More states to try to ramp up oversight of private colleges, and pushback from college leaders who worry about scrutiny pushing their institutions over the edge.

Admissions practices will face scrutiny. It doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to foretell this, following a year in which an elaborate admissions bribery scheme dominated national headlines. But there are specific issues on the horizon that show up in many outlooks for 2020:

Sara Hebel

Speaking of the Future …

We’re excited to announce that we’re adding a third newsletter to our Open Campus collection, and it focuses on what’s ahead for higher education.

Next, by Jeff Selingo, will talk about the future of college — and also the future of work and admissions, the topic of his next book. His first issue went out this week. In it, you can read about the three things he’s watching in 2020 and beyond. (The first one? Amazon and the big role it’s playing in the age of continuous learning.)

Jeff is an expert on the changing landscape of higher ed, which he’s written about for two decades. He’s the author of two New York Times bestsellers about college, a contributor to The Atlantic and The Washington Post, a special advisor at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.

To get Jeff’s insights delivered to your inbox, sign up for Next here.

Student Debt, One Word at a Time

We asked readers to tell us the one word that sums up how they feel about their student debt. A couple of the responses so far:

Endless: “I’m going to be paying this off forever. If I could start making meaningful payments now, it wouldn’t be so bad. But I won’t be able to do so for at least another few years. Meanwhile, the interest continues to grow.”

Crippling: “I have $124,000 of graduate school loan debt. I have diligently paid $40,000 back over the last 4 years. Because of astronomically high federal interest rates, my principal amount remains the same. I am 32 years old and feel I will never be able to save up to buy a home or consider having children due to the financial burden.”

Let us know how you’d sum up your student loans. Is it something you think about a lot? Something you try hard to ignore? Something you feel grateful for? Or outraged over?

Navigating the NCAA Rulebook

There’s another public-records bonanza out this week from the journalists at The Intercollegiate. For a window into what they call the “mania of college-sports compliance,” they asked scores of Division I public universities to provide the requests they made over the first half of 2019 for interpretations of NCAA rules.

“As crazy-making as the NCAA rulebook actually is,“ The Intercollegiate writes, “its specter creates a paranoia multiplier effect that perpetually agitates a cottage industry of professional worrywarts, who are made to wrack their brains over some of humanity’s most inane and extraneous questions. But fail to do that and run the risk of losing your job.”

The questions are everywhere: Is a luau a meal with entertainment or entertainment with a meal? Can LSU drive high-school coaches across the street in a golf cart? Can Bowling Green hire a life coach who takes a basketball player and his girlfriend to dinner?

And then there’s the insane story about Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving and UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s shared passion for wine.


In Most States, Public Funds for Higher Ed Increased Modestly

All but three states reported year-over-year increases, annual survey of state financing finds. WWW.INSIDEHIGHERED.COM

U. of Colorado Regents Passed Over More-Experienced Applicants When Picking Former Congressman as President

A list leaked to The Colorado Independent also shows the University of Colorado’s selection process strongly favored Republicans. WWW.COLORADOINDEPENDENT.COM

Michelle Obama Launches Instagram Video Series About Students Navigating First Year of College

“By sharing their stories, they’re helping others see that the ups and downs of the first year of college are something everyone goes through,” Obama said. WWW.AXIOS.COM

  • For more stories about the pivotal first year of college, see Chalkbeat’s Ready or Not series, which features the journeys of students in Detroit and Newark.

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Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus