Highlights from Higher Ed

5 Most Talked About Topics in Higher Ed in 2017

RJ Nichol
Dec 26, 2017

Each week as we prepared our Friday 4 at 4 posts throughout the last year, we noticed trends in the topics that major higher ed outlets were covering. Read on for more about top-of-mind topics in 2017 and what we’ll want to pay attention to as we start the new year.

1. “Non-traditional” Students

A shift in the demographics of students has many higher ed institutions changing their message and the support that they offer those seeking degrees. The following articles were just a few that touched on this topic throughout 2017:

  • “Non-traditional” Students the New Majority
    July 2017 – HigherEd Direct
    The past decade saw a shift in the demographics of higher education students. Non-traditional students are those who fit one or more characteristics related to age, employment, high school education or financial independence.
  • New Higher Ed Advocacy Group Makes Nontraditional Students Its Priority
    October 2017 – Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
    Higher Learning Advocates is a new advocacy group launched in October with the intention of updating federal policies and framework to help non-traditional students. Cost is a key focal area for this group, as many non-traditional students are financially responsible for themselves and/or a family.
  • Older, Nontraditional Students Increase and Change Higher Education
    May 2017 – Stanford: The College Puzzle
    Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that students 25 and older made up 40% of all college and graduate students in 2009, with an increase expected. Again highlighting financial concerns for non-traditional students and those working already, this piece suggests some unique ways to make college work.

2. Diversity in admissions

Race has always been a hot topic in admissions, but it’s perhaps even more so in 2017. The following articles were just a few that touched on this topic this year:

  • What You Need to Know about Race-Conscious Admissions in 2017
    August 2017 – The Chronicle of Higher Education
    Race-conscious admissions is a hot discussion topic when it comes to affirmative action as a problem in admissions. The US Supreme Court has decided this is ok, but higher education may be moving away from it. Eight states have banned race-conscious admissions in public colleges, including California.
  • Diversity Among Higher Education Admission Professionals Is More Important Than Ever
    August 2017 – Higher Education Today
    As diversity among high school graduates and college students increases—with a prediction that 45% of American high-school graduates will be non-white by 2020—authors David Hawkins & Tara Nicola stress the importance of diversifying among admissions professionals as well. Creating an inclusive campus is important for the success of future students.
  • A Critical View of College Admissions
    April 2017 – Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
    Author Karen Gross explains that the admission process is outdated and is adding stress to the process unnecessarily. Many schools are presenting the data in a way that ensures high rankings in guidebooks and on list. From legacy admissions to first generation to affirmative action, there are problems with the admissions process.

3. Application Rates

What long-term effect will an unstable political climate have on application numbers? It may be too soon to tell, but the following articles touched on this topic this year:

  • Will International Students Stay Away?
    March 2017 – Inside Higher Ed
    In a survey comprised of over 250 colleges and universities, almost 40% of them saw a decline in applications from international students. The biggest decline was from students who live in the Middle East. Reasons given include “the perception that the climate in the US is less welcoming.”
  • Shifting Tides: Understanding International Student Yield for Fall 2017
    Fall 2017 – Institute of International Education, Inc.
    The survey findings of this Shifting Tides report indicate that international application rates are remaining consistent, despite rumors of the contrary. Although the immigration policy debates have raised concerns, the numbers are not reflecting a decreased rate.
  • What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything)
    November 2017 – The New York Times
    The admission process is in dire need of some revamping, but no one within the higher education community can figure out just how to do it. With Supreme Court rulings and diversity at the center of admissions officers’ minds, there is a lot to figure out. Is the ideal applicant out there?

4. SAT test changes

Is standardized testing on its way out? And what does that mean for the standardization of application review? The following articles were just a few that touched on this topic this year:

  • The Slow, Steady Erosion of SAT Subject Tests
    October 2017 – Inside Higher Ed
    As recently as 2015, colleges were still requiring SAT subject tests for admission, but for most, they are a thing of the past. In 2017, almost 2 million students took the SAT, but less than 200,000 took a subject test. Though the SAT went through improvements this year, the subject tests have not, which may be a cause in the reduced number of tests taken.
  • New SAT, Old Gaps on Race
    September 2017 – Inside Higher Ed
    With an overwhelming percentage of students taking the “new” SAT this year, the College Board was hesitant to compare data to past years. But the data still shows gaps in race and ethnicity, which was also apparent on the ACT scores.
  • More Colleges Let Applicants Self-Report Test Scores
    October 2017 – Inside Higher Ed
    A small group of colleges are now allowing students to “self-report” their SAT scores during the application process, requiring official proof only after admittance. This is to help students save money, eliminating yet another barrier to college application.

5. Social Media

Our digital world is changing relationships, including the ones that higher ed institutions have with their prospective students. The following articles were just a few that touched on this topic this year:

  • 18 Awesome Higher-Ed Social Media Accounts for 2018
    October 2017 – WorkZone
    The social media world is proof that imitation is the best form of flattery. Learning from others in the higher education industry who have already mastered these social media platforms is a great way to increase application rates and enrollment in 2018.
  • Social Media in Higher Education: Strategies, Benefits, and Challenges
    March 2017 – Hootsuite
    This piece, put together by the unified social media platform Hootsuite, offers best practices for driving enrollment, boosting engagement, and raising money using social media. They also have a 2017 Social Campus Report that discusses the state of social media use and talks about areas of opportunity.
  • Five 2017 Marketing Trends, and What They Mean for Higher Education
    January 2017 – ECity Interactive
    Author Stephen App takes some of the marketing trends predicted to be crucial in 2017 and discusses how they relate to higher education. For example, video marketing means that higher education should focus on telling great stories. Since 64% of teens prefer to consume content through text and articles, and only 40% prefer video content, higher education should continue to tell great stories in a variety of ways.

After a year of some great conversations and growth, we look forward to seeing what 2018 will bring! 

RJ Nichol

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