Presumptions From The Golden Age & The Future Of Higher Education

Sep 17, 2021

The world’s top universities have always charged a premium tuition fees & now face a pivotal question - Whether to keep the old model or adopt new models of education?

The education sector which was already considered one of the most vulnerable sectors has undergone rapid transformations due to the pandemic The universities are the following link in the system and are poised for a crucial crossroads; it might be too late till countries worldwide keep trying to streamline primary & secondary education.

Higher Education Disruption: How Things Are Changing

Higher education is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Students have not been able to go to campus, colleges cut budgets, and layoffs increase. Families, students, staff and faculty, are all wondering what the future holds.

This is a moment of transformation for higher education. The trends that are driving disruption aren't new. At least for the past decade, higher education has been going through a disruptive phase, as highlighted by the steady drumbeat of commentary from Clay Christensen and others. They predicted that within the next 15 years, as many as half of all U.S. colleges and universities would shut down.

It has been a slow disruption, making it easy for higher education professionals to claim it isn't happening. However, COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change at a breath-taking speed. These trends have rapidly changed and will continue to impact deep in new ways. In the last six to eight months, we have seen a decade's worth of change.

Presumptions from The Golden Age

Many "Golden Age" assumptions that are regrettably outdated now; Still Exist!

  • Institutions can take growth in enrollment as a given because of the high demand for higher education.

  • That full-time, first-time-in-college residential students should be prioritized in admissions; they represent an ideal that colleges and universities should keep reservations for.

  • Students want an educational experience that is similar to that of three-quarters of a century back.

  • You can address rising costs by tinkering. This includes modest increases in tuition and fees and government aid.

  • Tenured faculty did not have to choose between research and teaching responsibilities. However, teaching loads and mentoring responsibilities could fall while research expectations could rise without any problems for institutions.

Each assumption has been proven to be wildly false

  • For a decade, enrollment declines have been a constant feature of the program. This decline presents particular challenges to small and regional institutions in the Northeast and Midwest.

  • Institutional and societal success depends on nontraditional students as much it depends on traditional students. Students who commute, work part-time or even full-time, care for their parents or have transferred to pursue degrees make up most students. They have different needs from traditional students who have defined higher education's Golden Age.

  • Students' needs have changed and intensified. Institutions are now required to spend significantly more on financial aid and support services for nontraditional and post-traditional students.

  • It has been difficult for institutions of four years and two years to serve the growth sector effectively. Traditional training and degree programs have not had a lot of success in meeting the needs of students from low-income families, community college students, and working adults who need retooling, skills training, and upskilling.

  • Tinkering is not a way to solve the higher education cost problems. To reduce costs, institutions are increasingly relying on non-tenure-track faculty. Under resourced institutions have also eliminated or consolidated programs. Colleges and universities need to be more entrepreneurial to increase their revenue. They have to admit more international students and, for public institutions, more students from outside the state.

  • There has been a rise in a caste system, where the interests of tenured faculty members and those of non-tenured instructors and professional personnel diverge. Institutions increasingly rely on lower-paid, non-tenure-track faculty to reduce their teaching load and relieve them from the responsibility of teaching introductory, grammar, and composition courses. This helps maintain instructional costs stability.

Additional Pressures On the Education Industry

  • State legislatures are pushing to reduce college costs and speed up time to degree. For example, they encourage high school students to complete gen ed classes. This is a way to cut down on college costs. It also makes it easier for community colleges to accept more transfer students and allows two-year institutions that offer applied bachelor's degrees to be admitted to four-year schools.

  • There is a growing demand for private institutions with deep pockets to increase their enrollments, whether modestly or radically.

  • There are now more affordable and faster routes to employment, including certificate-training programs that are corporate-sponsored and noncredit.


What can universities and colleges do to adapt to the post-Golden Age reality? Some strategies are apparent.

  • We hope that the Biden administration will provide funding to support and strengthen the current model. This includes a combination of debt relief, increased federal financial support, and encouragement for international student enrollment.

  • Faculty should use adaptive, personalized courseware, peer evaluation, and auto-grading to enable them to scale gateway courses. They also need to use degree maps, degree progress monitoring tools, and data analytics to track student progression, prompt, timely interventions, and supplement individual advising.

  • To ensure that staff can access specialized and difficult-to-staff programs, online course sharing should be increased.

  • Increase the number of certifications and certificates that align with career goals. These can be integrated into career paths or taken separately.

However, there is an alternative we believe is worth attention:

Changing the game.

Let's imagine how we could make the game more accessible to students with different learning needs, preparation levels, and goals. It's possible to:

  • Increase enrollment in the most selective institutions. It's not about expanding facilities. It's about rethinking the academic calendar. Seniors and juniors live off-campus & HyFlex is used to deliver the most popular classes while faculty is also being hired to keep quality high.

  • Make the educational journey less focused on lectures, courses, and seminars.

  • Colleges can also deliver the content in other ways, such as using courseware supplemented with online lectures and support or creating new blended experiences that require less time in traditional classrooms.

  • Experiential and project-based learning should be a significant part of your undergraduate experience. In addition, students might spend more time on other educationally beneficial experiences by reducing the importance of traditional classes. This includes internships (some of which should take place on campus in different institutional offices), participating in supervised research projects alone or with groups, field-based and service-learning activities, and contributing to a faculty project.

  • Every student should be part of a learning community in their first semester or their first year and throughout their education. These communities may offer students a place to do projects, present their findings, create creative ventures, and then critically reflect on their lessons.

  • Public institutions should be funded in a way that takes into account the needs of students. Let's change the current system that has an inverted relationship between student learning needs and public support.

Higher education faces the most significant challenge in overcoming legacy assumptions and entrenched practices.


The times have changed, and higher education must adapt to these new realities. Higher education must be able to accommodate the diversity of students and the financial and equity challenges that most colleges and universities are facing. The solution lies in our ability to see beyond the limitations of our perceptions.

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