Higher Education Trends for 2024

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The higher education landscape has been changing for years.

From transfer and retention issues to a predicted enrollment gap among 18-20 year olds, colleges have made a number of operational and policy changes to stay relevant in an increasingly dynamic world.

While the pandemic may have accelerated some of these changes, it is clear that these shifts are the foundation of an even bigger push to attract students, provide qualifications and prepare students for future jobs.

Below, we’ve highlighted three trends in higher education that are developing or repeating across the country. These are just a few ways community colleges and universities are adapting to better serve students.

Transfer partnership rooted in dual admission

In 2018, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and George Mason University partnered to launch a program for students planning to transfer and pursue a bachelor’s degree.

ADVANCE, a program rooted in dual admission, provides a clear path for students seeking a transfer, allowing them to complete their bachelor’s degree in a timely manner. Once ADVANCE students enroll in Northern Virginia, they are immediately admitted to George Mason University.

ADVANCE students choose from 85 academic tracks. The pathway lists show students the courses required for their NOVA degree and bachelor’s degree at Mason, along with academic milestones and specific program requirements.

The program offers multiple benefits, including major cost savings, certainty of credit transfer, specialized ADVANCE coaches and access to recreational facilities, sporting and cultural events at both NOVA and Mason. Students may also be eligible to complete select courses at Mason while still attending NOVA.

ADVANCE has been featured on PBS as a national transfer model and was highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education during their 2023 Student Transfer Summit.

According to EdSource, more than 1,500 ADVANCE students have successfully transitioned to college since the program launched, and more than 90% of students graduate within two years of transferring.

Community colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees

Community colleges in California will offer six new bachelor’s degree programs. The addition brings the total number of bachelor’s degree programs systemwide to 39, according to a March press release. The bachelor’s program started in 2014 and became final in 2021.

Most of the six new programs are healthcare-related and include degrees in respiratory care, paramedicine and dental hygiene – all in in-demand career areas.

The press release noted that by expanding these programs, the system could expand its reach of “higher education and skills development to a greater number of students.”

Expanding the number of bachelor’s degrees is part of the California Community Colleges’ strategic plan, with “achieving an equivalent baccalaureate degree being one of three strategic directions.”

A report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project states that the bachelor’s degree program is one way the system can address inequality disparities in higher education. And a UC Davis report found that half of bachelor’s degree graduates said they would not have pursued a bachelor’s degree if they had not been able to complete it at the community college.

It is important to note that the bachelor’s degrees offered by the California Community College system are exclusive to the system and are not duplicates of the bachelor’s degrees offered at California State University or University of California.

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Three-year bachelor’s degrees

The potential to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years is gaining momentum across the country.

In April, university administrators, faculty leaders and accreditors met to discuss and share progress on their efforts to create three-year bachelor’s degrees.

College-in-3, a group encouraging a redesign of the traditional bachelor’s degree, convened this national effort. The group and participants in the pilot institute say the traditional bachelor’s degree doesn’t work for everyone. The idea is to reduce course credits, thereby lowering costs for students and giving students the opportunity to enter the job market much earlier.

Although there is interest, accreditation is slow. According to a press release from Inside Higher Ed, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities approved three-year bachelor’s degrees last year, but said it would not approve others until they see results.

The Indiana Legislature passed a bill in March that would require four-year public colleges to develop three-year degree options by 2025.

Inside Higher Ed reported that Tom Bordenkircher, vice president of accreditation relations at the Higher Learning Commission, said last month that starting in September, the agency will consider approving any institution that wants to offer a “reduced credit bachelor’s degree” in any program . .

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.