Have you noticed that college has changed a lot during the past five years? Partly in response to consumer demand for different kinds of courses but also as a result of the continued computer revolution, getting a college degree is not what it used to be. In some ways it's better, and maybe in some ways worse. That's for students, the consumers, to say. But whether you like it or not, approve or not, recognize it or not, college in the 2020s is nothing at all like it was just a generation ago. Here are eight of the most significant ways higher education has reinvented itself.
This is the biggest change of all, and in a way it's the cause of all the other transformations of the four-year degree experience. The recent virus epidemic had a lot to do with speeding up the process of going remote, but the learning via telecommuting was already present before that. Remote school attendance has been slowly but steadily building steam, and consumer interest, since the early 2000s. One thing that slowed it down was resistance by the big universities, who saw more potential profit from in-person attendees as opposed to online students. In most cases, educational institutions have a hard time getting people to pay the same higher rates for online courses as for in-person ones.
Universities, community colleges, and four-year schools are all on the individualized curriculum bandwagon. In an attempt to attract more students as competition becomes cut-throat, the Harvard’s and Yale’s of the world, as well as tiny community colleges, have vastly expanded their course offerings. The days of liberal arts, business, engineering, and a few other majors are gone. Now, course catalogs are hundreds of pages long and accommodate virtually every niche of human interest. For prospective attendees who want to create their own majors, take a series of unrelated courses, or graduate without a declared major at all, schools are willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy the new customer base.
One of the biggest benefits of the modern educational system is lower costs for remote degrees. Millions of people are choosing to finish long-abandoned dreams of earning a diploma via telecommuting. And if they can't afford the cost of tuition for undergrad or graduate tuition, they can take out loans through a private lender without the need for a cosigner. Not only do private lenders offer competitive rates and reasonable terms, they are willing to help borrowers who don't have a parent, guardian, or other benefactor to cosign for them. Turning to a private lender for education financing is a smart move for lots of reasons. For anyone seeking a remote degree, or an in-person, traditional one, it's the most efficient way of earning a diploma.
Working adults don't often have time to take 15 credits per semester, the traditional track for four-year programs. But, with the new paradigm in place, there are no time limits. Feel like taking 10 years to finish a degree in business? Have at it. Want to skip summer breaks and get your diploma in three years? That's possible, too. Self-paced is the new buzz-word in recruiting materials and promotional campaigns. That's a good thing for anyone who enjoys the chance to take a year off in mid-course to explore a new life experience, travel, or do whatever. There's no questioning the fact that the ancient four-year system is quickly becoming extinct.
Check out the website of a university near where you live, and you'll notice something interesting. There are dozens of paths that have nothing to do with four-year or graduate diplomas. Of course, those two options still exist, but they're far outnumbered by certificate, vocational, trade-school type offerings. The modern higher educational institution has co-opted much of what old-style vocational schools used to do. Additionally, today's campuses are places where you can study just about any subject or enhance any career. That might mean just one or two semesters of attendance and much lower tuition, but the option is there for the asking. Traditional Liberal Arts coursework and majors are not as popular as they used to be. Working adults and recent high-school grads of the 2020s want job-centered instruction that helps boost salaries and chances for promotions.
The days of fraternities and sororities are possibly coming to an end. Long the mainstay of major institutions, the Greek organizations are finding it hard to maintain membership rolls when so many attendees are purely online, remote, or telecommute pupils. After all, it's hard to fill up sorority and frat houses with boarders when all the students live off campus. But, even without Greek life as an option, the new breed of degree seekers are finding other ways to engage in social interaction. After-class meetups in chat rooms or physical locations like bars and restaurants are becoming commonplace for remove learning, meaning anyone who does not attend in-person classes.
Thirty years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a university president who viewed pupils as consumers. Nowadays, the attitude is much different. If you pay tuition, you're a consumer. And, as such, you have all the power that goes with being one. That means administrators have to listen to your demands about offerings, schedules, job-related coursework, and all other components of the pathway that leads to a diploma. The student as consumer phenomenon might be one of the best things about higher education in the 2020s.
If you own a computer, your geographic location has virtually no impact on the university you attend. Remote means remote, as in no need to travel, live on campus, move to a new city, or turn your entire life upside down to attain your educational goals. Borders and physical locations no longer have the importance they once did. For example, Harvard, Notre Dame, and UCLA now have remote students from every state in the nation and dozens of foreign countries, many of them attending via computer terminal.