The education industry has faced its fair share of hurtles since the economic downturn. It’s clear that a prosperous economy requires an improved educational system (among other things), but the kinks in the rope have yet to be worked out to figure out exactly how to achieve improvement. Thoughts differ on how to achieve a more efficient education pipeline, but several themes remain consistent front-runners for trends to monitor across the educational space this year as we begin the second quarter of 2015. Some of these trends were not a surprise to our team, but some were certainly eye opening.

A bit dramatic, but you get the point.

A bit dramatic, but you get the point.

  • Tuition and financial aid are expected to increase, and more institutions are projected to fall short of revenue and enrollment targets.1 As institutions continue to see their typical funding sources dwindle, many are relying more on grant awards and alternative revenue. This will lead sponsoring organizations to require information not only on the impact of the award, but also an implementation plan for continuous measurement and analysis of data to optimize the education industry and positively influence the economy.2 The funding gap in education has been well publicized, but solutions have been more scarce. We anticipate that institutions will dedicate more resources to alumni relations and grant writing to bridge the gap once internal budgets have been optimized.
  • Colleges realize the need to demonstrate value to prospective students, so more institutions will be investigating how they can best provide quality education and services which add value to students.1 This will likely not come as a surprise to our colleagues in the higher education industry. Students have been showing increased interest in the value of a college education over the last several years. Obtaining student feedback will be vital to jumping this hurtle.
  • Academic technology and use of analytics is projected to increase at higher education institutions. It will become more commonplace for college’s to gather and use data on student learning and behaviors.1 The focus will need to be on metrics that predict success and are early indicators for areas of improvement, rather than graduation rates and persistent rates, which give us information after it is too late to impact a student’s collegiate experience. To make this venture successful, professors and administrative professionals should be part of the planning process when data collection and reporting tools are being developed.2 While some institutions will have staff in place to handle this influx of data, others may benefit from seeking a qualified vendor to assist in the compilation and analysis to determine next steps.
  • Online learning will continue to gain in popularity and robustness. Platforms are expected to become more customizable, providing immediate feedback on performance and tutoring, and ultimately leading to faster degree completion and enhanced academic relationships with professors. As students are becoming increasingly savvy with technology, institutions will need to find ways to upgrade or offer high tech educational options.This is certainly not a new concept, although it continues to evolve over the years. Since the emergence of MOOCs, we’ve seen a boom in online educational offerings. Although their effectiveness is often debated, it’s clear that online learning as a concept is growing in demand.
  • Acceptance of nontraditional credits, such as “industry-based certifications, credit exams, live demonstrations, etc.” from working professionals who switch careers is expected to become increasingly popular. This will allow the workforce to be recognized for their current knowledge when entering an academic program for a new career.1 This trend caught us off guard. It’s a very interesting concept, and we’re excited to hear if this is gaining in popularity within the industry.
  • The demographic of first-generation college students is evolving. Many are no longer “American-born students from working class families,” but are more likely to come from all corners of the world who graduated high school in the United States. Having completed secondary school stateside will make them appear like a domestic applicant, but they’ll have different financial and service needs.1 It’s not uncommon to see more institutions recruiting a larger number of international students. The U.S. has seen an 85% increase in the number of foreign students since 2005. What’s interesting is the shift – first-generation college students who grew up in another part of the world, but relocated to the United States to complete high school and attend college. Institutions will need to determine the financial aid and student service needs of this population to stay ahead of the evolving trend.
  • The traditional post-secondary student demographic is also shifting. The number of mid-career professionals and baby boomers attending college is on the rise, which will require institutions to revisit their suite of academic offerings and ensure the evolving needs of the student are being met (such as desired schedule, learning format, and program structure).1 Program feasibility studies and revisiting strategic plans will become vital components of an institution’s effort to meet changing needs.
  • More states are requiring institutions to give college credit to veterans for their service to our country. There has also been a shift in policies which requires all public universities in the United States to allow military personnel to receive in-state tuition for use of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, regardless of residency restrictions as part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.3 This is a recent alteration in tuition expectations, so it will important for institutions to monitor and assess the impact of the Act on their bottom line.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


1. Higher ed thought leaders forecast 2015 trends. (2015, January 1).

2. Phillips, B. (2014, December 19). Top 10 Education Trends to Watch in 2015 and Beyond.

3. All public colleges will soon offer veterans in-state tuition. (2015, March 9).