The new normal

Colleges will shift away from campuses, and the four-year degree.

Students skipped out on college in droves during the pandemic: undergraduate enrollment has fallen 7.8% since the fall of 2019. To get students to return to school — or come at all — colleges will need to make their pandemic-era flexible options permanent and adopt new approaches to education, writes higher education expert and author Jeff Selingo.
Higher education is known for its rigid schedules and curriculum. But during the pandemic, schools embraced flexibility. Classes were redesigned with a mix of face-to-face and online content. Textbooks were exchanged for digital materials. The academic calendar was reimagined with fewer breaks. Colleges can continue to offer these things.
Georgetown University R&D leader Randy Bass is even thinking about revamping the college degree itself, where students earn a degree at their own pace. Instead of a 2- or 4-year degree or a bachelor’s or master’s degree, he calls it a “3-to-5 flex.”

With a demographic cliff coming in the middle of this decade as the number of high-school graduates falls off, providing something different is the only way all but the biggest brand names in higher education will survive.