Top College Trends for 2011

How will American higher education change in 2011? Even though we don’t have a crystal ball, we can safely predict that these trends will make the news over the next 12 months.

  • Coming in 2011: Hard times for the big for-profit universities. Enrollments should drop at the most famous for-profit online institutions in 2011, due to a lot of negative news about their shady dealings in 2010. First, the U.S. Congress investigated them for milking millions of dollars from government educational programs. Then other bizarre stories made the news too, including the fact that one for-profit was enrolling homeless people and splitting government scholarships with them. When you consider that these institutions are also expensive, it’s a pretty sure bet that fewer Americans will be knocking at their doors in 2011 or after.
  • Coming in 2011: America’s most prestigious colleges and universities will become even more exclusive. There’s a simple reason for this. In the current economy, more wealthy families will see high-status diplomas from places like Dartmouth and Williams as a guarantee of employment for their children. While less prestigious colleges will fall on hard times (see just below), these high-pedigree schools will continue to attract lots of applications – and thrive.
  • Coming in 2011: A shakeout for America’s middle-tier schools. It is one thing for a family to pay $50,000 a year for an Ivy League education – and another one to pay that much to a middle-tier college whose graduates can’t find jobs. In 2011, acceptance rates at these middle-tier schools rose as colleges scrambled to fill their classrooms with paying students. The situation will become even harder for these institutions in 2011 as they struggle to stay afloat.
  • Coming in 2011: College-funded financial aid will dry up at all but the wealthiest schools. The Princetons, Yales and Harvards of the world will still offer scholarships to worthy students and athletes. But scholarships will become far harder to find at most other schools, which need to keep the heat on and the administrators paid.
  • Coming in 2011: iCollege will become the college of choice for more American students. The term “iCollege” was first used in 2010 to describe an online college where students can take courses anywhere, anytime, and at a low cost. With tuition soaring at most American colleges, iCollege is poised to move into the spotlight. More students will take online college courses to trim college costs, to knock off the core-curriculum courses that their colleges require – and for more reasons too.
  • Coming in 2011: The birth of guerrilla college planning. With tuition veering into the realm of the surreal, students and their families will use highly innovative tactics to cut college costs. Students will enroll in community colleges or state institutions for two years, then transfer. They will look for three-year colleges. They will also spend as little as $999 for a year of college courses online.

Make no mistake about it, the trends outlined above are all but sure things for the year 2011 and beyond. A shakeout is in the offing – but one that promises nothing but good things for cost-conscious students and their families.