Highlights from Higher Ed: Fewer Adult Students, Rising Costs and Lingering Questions about a Master’s Degree “Bubble”

RJ Nichol
Dec 27, 2019

Has the master’s degree bubble burst?

The fact that the “explosion of new master’s degree programs in recent years hasn’t corresponded with a surge in students” is fueling debate about whether “the master’s degree market is a bubble that has ‘already burst.’” Those who believe it has burst cite numbers illustrating the market’s failure to live up to its anticipated potential. For example, in 2014, the projected 10-year annual growth rate of master’s degree conferrals in the U.S. was 2.8%. However, from 2013 to 2018, the actual growth rate was just 1.7%. They also note that prior to 2011 almost every master’s degree field was growing. Since then, though, most fields have experienced declines; growth has essentially been limited to programs in computer science, engineering and the health professions. Possible explanations include tougher competition for students, a strong job market and easier access to non-degree credential. But not everyone believes the bubble has burst. While some acknowledge that “growth rate may be slowing, relative to the recession” they also believe that strong growth could resume if the economy experiences a downturn.

Source: Inside Higher Ed

Adult college enrollment numbers continue to decline

The number of people enrolled in college who are at least 24 years old declined by 2.7% — to 6.2 million students — in the fall of 2019. The trend, which began in 2011, is one of the reasons overall enrollment numbers have been dropping recently. Generally speaking, no institutions were immune, with the “decrease in adult students occur[ing] across all institution types: public and nonprofit private four-year colleges, public two-year colleges and private for-profit four-year institutions.” Public two-year colleges experienced the biggest drop off in older students, recording a 3.7% reduction in that population compared with 2018. Overall, approximately 171,000 fewer students over the age of 24 enrolled in college in 2019 than in the previous year.

Source: Education Dive

College costs climbed more than 25% in the past decade, calling value into question

On average, students who attended a public college during the 2008/2009 school year paid $16,460 for the privilege of doing so, while those attending private colleges shelled out $38,720. Today, they could expect to pay $21,370 and $48,510, respectively. In other words, “costs increased by roughly 25.3% at private colleges and about 29.8% at public colleges.” College graduates still earn weekly wages that are 80% greater than those earned by high school graduates but “as the cost of college has increased and student debt has become a national concern, Americans have begun to question if college is worth the cost.”


Business schools need to better articulate the benefits of graduate management education

Forward-thinking GME program directors and admissions professionals are responding to enrollment challenges at their institutions by identifying new opportunities for success, such as leveraging as much data as possible in order to understand current trends in a broader, more meaningful context. Still, business schools must do a better job of articulating the benefits of graduate management education, such as the career opportunities it makes possible and the return on investment it provides. Ultimately, the power of data — and visionary leadership — will make it possible to maintain an optimistic view of the future of graduate management education, regardless of the headwinds it may encounter from time to time.

Source: Boston Business Journal

RJ Nichol

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