2010 – A Look Back ... 20th-Century Traditions Give Way to 21st- Century Innovations

Last year, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine celebrated its 20th anniversary. Although it was clear that the face of higher education had changed over the past 20 years, much can be said about the accelerated fashion in which higher education has changed since the dawn of the 21st century. Now, like a chain reaction gathering energy and speed, the changes are coming fast and furious as we enter the second decade of this new century.

Lost among the bad economic news of the past year were some positive developments in 2010. Arne Duncan, secretary of education, recently referenced a College Board survey that reports the net price of tuition (the cost after grant aid and tax benefits) is lower than it was five years ago. Duncan says that this is due in part to our investments in Pell and GI Bill grants. Another part of the solution, says Duncan, was the new American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly known as the Hope Credit), which provided a tax credit of up to $2,500 for tuition and approved education expenses – good news for Hispanic and low-income families.

Some of the changes made by the Obama administration are through the reform of lending procedures in the federal student loan program. President Obama explained these changes to an audience at the University of Texas-Austin. “Under the old system, we’d pay the banks
and financial companies billions of dollars in subsidies to act as middlemen. These loans were guaranteed by the federal government. But we’d still pass them through banks, and they’d take out billions of dollars in profits. So it was a good deal for them, but it wasn’t a very good deal,” he said, for college applicants and their families. “And because these special interests were so powerful, this boondoggle survived year after year, Congress after Congress.”

President Obama stated that as a result of the reform of this system, “instead of handing over $60 billion in subsidies to big banks and financial institutions over the next decade, we’re redirecting that money to make college more affordable for nearly eight million students and families across the country.”

The other good news in 2010 was that the bad economy drove new high school graduates into colleges in record numbers rather than into the job market. Many others rejoined the education community for retraining. Total enrollment at four-year colleges and universities jumped to almost 12 million in the United States. Revenues were up almost 5 percent for colleges and universities as well – bringing the revenue total to almost $425 billion. Community colleges and trade schools, populated by many Hispanics, saw a major increase as well, but with these increases came a set of problems that exposed the down side of developments in higher education last year.

While explaining the accomplishments of the Obama administration in higher education, Duncan also notes that the news was not all good in 2010. Duncan notes that the same rosy report by the College Board that touted lower net tuition also showed that tuition increased by 7.9 percent at state public four-year colleges and 4.5 percent at private four-year colleges.
And although enrollment numbers were up in 2010, admissions officers at colleges and universities in some areas of the country found that they were competing for a shrinking pool of state resident applicants. In the Northeast, the number of resident students reached its high water mark in AY 2007-08 at 625,000 students. It has been on a downward path since
then. According to a study conducted by the Connecticut State Department of Education, that number will be about 550,000 by AY 2017-18.

In the Midwest, belt tightening at the state level cut a $100 million internship program in Ohio that would have linked Ohio college students to businesses in the state. The Ohio Legislature also voted to allow institution tuition increases by 3.5 percent for each of the next two years. At Minnesota’s state universities, a union representing 3,000 faculty members agreed to salary freezes that continued through 2010.

In the South Atlantic region of the country, Georgia public colleges faced a shortfall of 10 percent or $220 million in state support for 2010 and had to eliminate the state “fixed for four” program that allowed higher education freshmen classes to pay the same tuition rate for four years. At the University of Virginia, endowments fell by 20 percent ($1 billion), but 10 percent increases in tuition anticipated for 2010 were lowered to 4.5 percent thanks to federal stimulus funds. In West Virginia, state support for public colleges in 2010 was cut 3 percent, but Florida fared even worse with 10 percent cuts. 

In the Mountain West, Wyoming reduced its higher education spending by 2 percent, but the University of Wyoming saw a 10 percent drop in state money in 2010. That amounted to $18.3 million less in that school’s coffers. The good news for that region is that the federal stimulus money allowed most of these states to operate with the same monies they had in 2008. But that comes with its own set of problems. In Montana, state officials worry about what they can do to replace the $18 million they are now receiving in federal aid to close their higher education funding shortfall.

In the Pacific West, the University of California and California State University saw 20 percent cuts in state support in 2010. The state’s 110 community colleges saw the same 20 percent cut. It is estimated that the state’s public colleges will lose 300,000 students by 2011 because the
schools will simply have to turn students away. Oregon had to raise its tuition by 6 percent to 8 percent in its colleges and universities throughout the state. In Washington state, the University of Washington and Washington State University began to raise their tuition by 30 percent this year and next year.

In the South Central region of the country, the positive effects of the fed-eral stimulus on aid to state colleges and universities is most evident. In Louisiana, stimulus dollars averted a 15 percent cut in public college budgets. The cut was set at 7 percent, instead. The University of Tennessee was looking at 2010 cuts of $66 million, but the federal stimulus sent $92 million
to fill that gap. The good news in Texas and Arkansas is that both these states actually increased funding to state schools, by 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively. But both states are projected to have their higher education enrollment ranks swell over the next few years, perhaps overwhelming any modest increases in funding.

So, predicting what will happen in 2011 does not take a crystal ball. Most states are bracing for what happens to higher education funding when the federal stimulus funds run out in 2011 and 2012. States are hoping that the economy will sufficiently recover to restore vital funding
to their colleges and universities. But officials at these same schools know they have to become creative to deal with shifts of populations and population demographics as well as fewer foreign students. They also know that they have to compete with less for students – fewer full-time and tenured faculty, more adjunct professors and fewer brick-and-mortar 
course choices.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, schools have been changing and adapting to a new age of higher education. Here are some trends and changes that we’ll see more and more of in 2011 and in years to come:

Overcrowding at Community Colleges – As long as income levels remain stagnant for middle-class families and unemployment remains high, new high school graduates and those looking to invent themselves for new careers will be flocking to community colleges. For high school graduates, community colleges might be viewed as a way station to wait out a poor job market. And community colleges are the best game in town for students on a budget. With lower tuition rates and career programs that can be completed in two years, they offer the best bang for the buck.

Early Admission Arguments – The trend toward discontinuing early admissions among large and prestigious colleges and universities is continuing, but slowing down. Schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford have already dropped their programs, citing their concern about equal access, speculating that students who are financially better off can make a commitment in the early admissions process that students weighing different financial aid packages cannot make. But advocates of early admission point to the important role it can play in athlete recruitment and financial planning for the institution.

Student Perks – According to University Business Magazine, schools are slapping on a fresh coat of paint and sprucing up their dorms and public areas to attract more enrollees. It is not unusual for students to be able to get private bedrooms and have flat-screen TVs and fireplaces in the lounges in their buildings. Schools are also going the extra mile to convince
students and families that security and safety are top priorities. More and more institutions are conducting focus groups for input on architectural designs of buildings and furnishing choices.

The Growth of Early College – Seen as a win-win for colleges and the communities they serve, the concept of Early College is taking hold throughout the nation. This education innovation pairs selected high school students with associated colleges and universities, giving these students the opportunity to take college courses and allowing them to earn college credits while still in high school. The students selected for Early College aren’t just honor roll students. Because these students attend college free of charge and aren’t concerned about paying for tuition or books, the program often attracts poorer students who become the first generation
in their families to attend college. The Early College program is funded by the state and by private organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

High-Tech Explosion – It wasn’t that long ago that getting a degree online was the punch line of jokes about higher education, but with the new century, the floodgates have opened. Virtually all colleges and universities offer virtual courses. Back in the brick-and-mortar classroom world, it is the norm for professors to correspond by e-mail or podcast and for
assignments to be filed electronically. Computer labs are going the way of public telephone booths on campus. Freshmen come equipped with their own suite of electronic gadgets, from notebook computers to iPhones replete with apps for every conceivable need.

Globalization – As technology and trade practices shrink the world, college students are more and more attracted to study in other countries. Since the year 2000, the number of students studying in a country other than their own has increased 60 percent, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Also, according to the IIE, the number of United States students studying in another country has increased by about 150 percent.

Finally, the brightest note for 2011 comes from a projection put forth by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). According to its Job Outlook 2011 Fall Preview survey, employers surveyed say that they anticipate employing 13.5 percent more new college graduates than they did from the class of 2010. More than 90 percent of these employers say they will either keep their hiring rates at 2010 levels or raise them.