2014 Higher Education Predictions

April 11th, 2014
Remediation Transfer
William Tierney, Wilbur Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, USC Rossier School of Education

April 10, 2014 | Written by: William Tierney, Wilbur Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, USC Rossier School of Education

I offer 10 prognostications about the coming year with regard to education. I am not suggesting that these points should happen, just that they are likely to occur, so here are my New Year’s Predictions:

More postsecondary institutions will be in fiscal distress.
Some will be in denial. Some won’t know it because they can’t read a budget. Some will panic. A handful will close, but even fewer will be proactive in resolving the problems they face. Eventually a third of institutions will go out of business or merge.

2. Amazon (or a similar group) will move into the postsecondary market.

Amazon’s ability to distribute knowlege to its vast customers has the potential to create a sea-change in how we have been thinking of ‘disruptive technolocy’ and MOOCs.

3. Tenure track faculty will rise ever so slightly in absolute numbers and percentages.

Some institutions are realizing that they can’t function without a stable workforce. Others who are seeking prestige know that adjunct faculty won’t get them there.

4. Competency based education will become a central topic of discussion.

I’m hopeful that competencies may be seen as an alternative to standard grades and credit hours, and that this will have better luck than other experiments of recent years.

5. Transfer will become an obsession.

The easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to increase graduation rates is to make transfer seamless. This has been disaster area. Until now. Look for progress this year.

6. Congress will pass some version of the Dream Act for undocumented students.

The Republicans are worried about the mid-term elections and will pass some legislation aimed specifically at college-age undocumented students. The hoops they will have to jump through will be onerous and unnecessary, but at leasty they will finally have a way to become citizens.

7. MOOCs will recede as the ‘hot, new thing’ (but will not go away).

Now that the hype has subsided the real work will occur to figure out how to improve learning outcomes and develop a business plan for this curious new technology.

8. Colleges and universities will play “follow the students”.

Those who think that MOOCs are the end of civilization and that the current ‘sage on the stage’ model is the only viable pedagogical option will be overwhelmed by those who start following what students do. Student (aka consumer) preferences will become more important and academia will start learning a great deal about real and potential customer likes and dislikes.

9. Internships and out of class experiences will continue to be important.

Until we resolve the problem of rampant grade inflation and understand the competencies needed for specific jobs, internships and out of class expreiences for students will rise in import. Once seen as a poor second to what took place in a classroom, now experiences in the ‘real world’ act as counters to the easy A earned in classes that tell us nothing if a student has learned anything.

10. Efforts at remediation will remain controversial and contradictory and continue to remain a major point of contention.

A central way to improve students’ graduation rates is to overcome the deficiencies they have when they arrive at academe’s doorstop. We could resolve this if we agreed upon particular benchmarks, but that won’t happen this year.

I could be wrong on all of these, but I’m betting that each point will be a major issue over the next year. As in the past, my commitment this year, and that of the Pullias Center, is to focus intensively on these issues.


William G. Tierney

About the Author:

William G. Tierney is Co-Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, University Professor and Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the Rossier School of Education.

To read his complete bio, click here.