Factors Affecting the Future of Higher Education: Increased Demand
By Dr. Farhad (Fred) Saba
Founder and Editor, Distance-Educator.com
Education at all levels and institutions, including the training functions of most corporations and government agencies, are facing unprecedented challenges in huge proportions as the 21st century unfolds. At the turn of the century, Houghton, and Sheehan (2000) posited and major international organizations, such as World Bank (2002) and UNESO (2005) reported that the main source of this challenge is a worldwide shift of “emphasis” and center of economic activity from capital, labor and means of production as the primary factors in economic growth and development to knowledge-based problem solving in a high-technology environment made of computers and telecommunication networks. In an earlier book Neef (1998) explained:
Today, state governors, industry leaders, and educators agree that a secondary school diploma is not sufficient to thrive in the post-industrial economy of the United States.
As a result, it is becoming obvious that individuals (and organizations) who are best able to leverage their knowledge advantage will increasingly account for a greater portion of total output. They also become the recipients of a consistently greater portion of relative earnings. In short, for developed economies, knowledge work –activities that involve complex problem identification, problem solution, or high-technology design that result in innovative new products and services or create new ways of exploiting markets – has quickly become the focus of economic growth and individual and organizational prosperity. (p. 3)
In the industrial economy of the 20th century a high school degree was sufficient to land on an entry level job in manufacturing or trades; a position that invariably evolved to a life-time career for most workers, often with the same company. Today, state governors, industry leaders, and educators agree that a secondary school diploma is not sufficient to thrive in the post-industrial economy of the United States. Manufacturing and trades positions also require some level of post high school study in science, technology, engineering or math; a group of disciplines referred to by the US Department of Education as STEM.
As professions become increasingly dependent on knowledge acquisition and generation in the future, skills such as analytical and critical thinking, and decision-making also become more significant.
As the US private and public sector organizations transition into modes of work that are increasingly dependent on knowledge acquisition and generation, demand for higher education will inevitably increase. According to the US Department of Labor (2012) in the time frame between 2010 and 2020 jobs requiring a
- Master’s degree are expected to grow the fastest, at a rate close to 22 percent,
- Doctoral or professional degree are expected to grow by about 20 percent,
- Associate’s degree by 18 percent,
- Bachelor’s degree by 17 percent.
In contrast, occupations in the high school category are expected to grow by just 12 percent, while occupations in the less than high school diploma or equivalent category are projected to grow by 14 percent (p. 1, p. 76)
What’s more, some CEOs of US-based corporations have argued for more emphasis on liberal arts education in colleges to bolster the foundational skills that are required in the work place in the emerging information-based economy of the United States (Weber, 2012; Kingkade, 2012). As professions become increasingly dependent on knowledge acquisition and generation in the future, skills such as analytical and critical thinking, and decision-making also become more significant. Since almost all employees must receive industry specific on the job training, those who are equipped with higher level cognitive competencies can succeed better as compared to those who have some level of technical training but little or no background in liberal arts. Another reality is that technology changes quickly and technical skills become obsolete rapidly as well and must be updated on a regular basis. However, basic cognitive skills are useful and applicable throughout one’s life span for work as well as other important life decisions.
Trends in enrollment as reported by the US Department of Education (n. a) illustrate the growing demand for higher education in the US. While enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000 the growth between 2000 and 2010 was 37 percent, from 15.3 million students to 21.0 million. Much of the growth between 2000 and 2010 was in full-time enrollment; the number of full-time students rose 45 percent, while the number of part-time students rose 26 percent. (p. 1).
As far as the future is concerned, the US Department Education projects that the overall enrollment in post-secondary degree-granting institutions will increase at a rate of 15.5 percent . What is interesting is that it is expected that enrollment for students over 25 years of age will rise faster (20 percent) as compared to those under 25 (11 percent).
In the academic year 2011-12, according to a US Department of Education’s report by Knapp, Kelly-Reid, and Ginder, (2012) 25.6 million students were studying in undergraduate programs in 7,398 Title IV institutions in the United States, while the number of reported graduate students were 3.9 million.
Houghton, J. & Sheehan, P. (2000). A primer on the knowledge economy.
Victoria,Australia. Center for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University.
Kingkade, T. (2012, May 17). Employers target liberal arts majors and college grads who had internships: Survey. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/employers-liberal-arts-interns-college-grads-survey_n_1522144.html
Knapp, L.G., Kelly-Reid, J.E., and Ginder, S.A. (2012). Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2011-12, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2010-11, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2010-11 (NCES 2012-289). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.
Neef, D. (1998). The knowledge economy: An introduction. In D. Neef (Ed.), The knowledge economy (pp. 1-12). Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
The World Bank (2002). Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
US Department of Education (n. a.) Fast facts: Enrollment. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98
US Department of Labor (2012). Occupational outlook handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/About/Projections-Overview.htm#educationandtraining
UNESCO (2005). Towards knowledge societies. Paris, France: UNESCO
Weber, L. (2012, May 22) CEOs debate: Do the liberal arts pay off? The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2012/05/22/ceos-debate-do-the-liberal-arts-pay-off/