The Future of Learning
From demographics and social change to politics and technology, many trends impact planning in higher education. SCUP’s Trends for Higher Education is designed to help you and your institution make sense of the most significant evolutionary forces.
This edition focuses on trends both on campuses and across society at large that affect the very heart of the higher education enterprise—learners and learning.
Demographic shifts. Political changes. Social movements. The evolution of technology. These all affect your institution. SCUP’s Trends for Higher Education helps you and your institution stay on top of the major changes in the world around you. How?
How can you use Trends?
We’ve organized Trends using STEEP:
Social: How people work internally (psychology) and with each other (sociology)
Technological: How people use technology (including hardware and software), how society relies on technology, and how technology affects society
Economic: Macro- or micro-economics, including global trends, anything related to jobs and skills needed for jobs, and industry shifts
Environmental: Our external surroundings, including sustainability and our evolving workplaces, cities, and living spaces
Political: Public policy, governmental systems, the people within them, and the effects of government decisions on our citizens and communities
Each trend includes a brief summary, a footnoted source, and discussion questions to help you analyze and act on the trend.
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It’s impossible for us to identify every issue you may need to consider. What did we miss? What did we get wrong? Tell us!
Most students pick colleges close to home. Research shows games help learning. Employers want even more “soft” skills. How well is your institution attuned to social trends like these?
A study by Barnes & Noble College, the bookseller’s higher education retail division, finds that 51 percent of students in Gen Z—the cohort born between 1995 and 2010, now entering the college pipeline—like to learn by doing. (Thirty-eight percent say they are visual learners, while 12 percent say they learn best through listening.) “Gen Z wants engaging, interactive learning experiences,” the study says. Researchers found that, in the classroom, Gen Zers value the use of technology, hands-on learning, and individual attention.1
How well does pedagogy at your institution support the learning modalities that resonate with Gen Z? How well are your learning spaces designed to support the ways Gen Z prefers to learn?
Arguing that a focus on “fabricated outcome measures” is the wrong lens through which to measure student learning in college, a report from the Century Foundation posits that student academic engagement best indicates student performance. Rather than focus on student learning outcomes and standardized tests, the report urges policy makers to look instead at “actual outputs from students’ academic engagement” as reflected in their papers, written exams, projects, and presentations.2
In the ongoing quest to assess and improve educational quality, has your institution started to weigh student engagement as a key building block of student success? What about factors like grit and persistence? How can we encourage accreditors and policy makers to rethink the way we measure student learning? How can we measure student academic engagement while also fulfilling accreditation demands?
When it comes time to pick a college, most students stay close to home. American Council on Education researchers found that 57.4 percent of incoming freshmen at public four-year colleges enrolled at institutions within 50 miles of their permanent home. The report suggests that “geography will be even more important for future post-traditional college students who are balancing work, family, and school responsibilities.”3
The report also found that college students from working-class families and students of color—populations that demographers say are rising—are more likely to base their decision to attend on distance. If students are more focused on finding affordable education close to home, how might that affect your institution’s ability to meet enrollment targets and compete for students with other universities?
As more institutions offer programs in entrepreneurship, a persistent question is whether the capacity for innovation can be taught. A study from New York University says yes. One of the study’s authors said that the study “disrupts the position that higher education may not be conducive to fostering innovation” by suggesting that certain “structured higher education experiences” can cultivate a student’s capacity for entrepreneurship.4
Entrepreneurship training is getting more sophisticated—relying less, for example, on anecdotes about successful entrepreneurs and more on skills required for using data to make a business case for innovative ideas. Some institutions are starting entrepreneurship majors. Is entrepreneurial training at your institution keeping pace with such trends? Are entrepreneurs-in-training offered ample opportunities for the experiential learning that helps students put innovation into practice?
While researchers say more research is needed, evidence is building that games can help people learn. Reviewing the scientific literature, Italian researchers found several studies that demonstrate that students in the health professions “who practiced . . . serious game training have better results than users experiencing traditional learning processes.”5
Researchers have shown that games can help students retain knowledge and keep learners engaged in learning. Your institution may offer courses or even a major in game development, but how well does it understand the science that connects games and learning? How effectively does it integrate games into the curriculum? What kinds of resources would it take to invest in gaming pedagogy? How can you convince campus skeptics that games can be good learning tools?
According to research by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society, creativity, emotional intelligence, and cognitive flexibility are the new must-have skills for the workplace, while a worker’s ability to be a good active listener, though still valued, is becoming less important relative to other skills.6
How well is your institution investing students with the “soft” skills they will need in tomorrow’s workplace? Is your institution helping students learn to be more creative, for example, and to practice emotional intelligence? Are courses, programs, and degree requirements aligned with such 21st-century skills?
In the United States, about 42 percent of incoming college students get referred to remedial courses.7 Many experts want to make developmental programs both more effective and less expensive. A study in Tennessee found that corequisite remediation—where developmental programming is integrated into a course, not required as a prerequisite for that course—is more cost effective and also boosts student academic performance.8
Studies show that Black, Latino, poor, and community college students are more likely to require remediation. Given that more students from these populations are expected to enroll in college in the coming years, do universities need to devote more attention to developmental education? Are your institution’s remedial courses working? Can your institution collaborate more closely with regional K–12 educators to ensure that students are prepared for college-level work?
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered how the brain acquires new ideas. Using neural-decoding techniques, they pinpointed brain activation patterns showing that the brain repurposes existing neural systems to form new knowledge. One researcher suggested that if instructors knew how the brain will encode a new concept, they might teach that concept in ways that match the encoding.9
The Carnegie Mellon study is just one in a wave of new brain research. What we know about the brain will certainly affect pedagogy—perhaps in ways as direct as the Carnegie Mellon research suggests. Brain research is also helping students succeed in other ways, such as in the development of intelligent computer tutoring. How open is your institution to adopting emerging new concepts based on such research? How might it be more of an early adopter of emerging ideas, tools, techniques, and concepts to improve teaching and learning?
From virtual reality in the classroom to the rise of the “learning engineer,” are we already on the verge of the next generation of technology in higher education?
At the University of Maryland’s Augmentarium, researchers study how to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to expand human intelligence and potential across multiple disciplines, including science, engineering, and medicine. One educational application, for example, demonstrates surgical techniques to budding physicians, including the intricacies of procedures they might encounter only rarely.10
From architecture and history to anatomy and molecular biology, VR and AR offer powerful new tools to help students learn. To what extent is your institution adopting these emerging technologies? What further steps are needed to acquire the necessary software, infrastructure, training, and incentives needed to encourage faculty to use VR and AR in their courses?
When it comes to the adoption of digital textbooks, we’re seeing mixed signals. In 2015, McGraw-Hill Education sold more digital products than print for the first time.11 But a recent study found that in the fall of 2015, just 15.1 percent of faculty members said they primarily used digital materials.12 And a 2013 study of college students found that if the cost was the same for print and digital books, 87 percent of undergraduate and graduate students would prefer the paper version.13
According to the 2015 Campus Computing Survey, 96 percent of campus chief information officers believe that digital resources improve learning.14 What is the right mix of print and digital resources for your institution? What steps can your institution take to get more faculty members to adopt digital resources? Beyond personal preference, are technology issues involved? What role can your institution’s library play in distributing, integrating, and pushing for the robust use of digital materials in the curriculum?
In analyzing 225 studies that compared student performance in undergraduate lecture-based STEM courses versus active learning courses, researchers concluded that active learning boosted average student grades by “half a letter” and that students in traditional lecture-based classes were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes with active learning.15
Is active learning a key to graduating more students in STEM disciplines? If so, how is your institution supporting active learning? Are there embedded beliefs about learning delivery methods that need to be changed before active learning can take hold? Do you need to provide more resources—training, materials, technology, learning spaces—to help educators make the change?
In a recent MIT report on online education policy, researchers suggested that higher education needs more “learning engineers”—experts with “a knowledge base in the learning sciences, familiarity with modern education technology, and an understanding of and practice with design principles.” The report said such professionals can “provide a natural pipeline from research to practice by designing and redesigning learning experiences through a combination of rigorous design principles and insights from research.”16
Different modes of educational delivery are becoming more common in universities, and higher education curricula are becoming more applied and interdisciplinary. How is the curriculum developed at your institution? Does that process need reengineering? Could new expertise—such as from learning engineers—bolster curricular development at your institution? Does your institution engage in discussions about how what we are learning about learning should drive changes in the curriculum?
Through its recently acquired online learning platform Lynda.com, LinkedIn has started offering more than 50 “learning paths.” Essentially packages of educational material, learning paths help users learn or update skills in such areas as 3-D animation, music production, small-business ownership, graphic design, software development, and IT. Successful students earn certificates of completion.17
What are the broader implications of learning paths like Lynda.com? Do they encroach on educational territory that has traditionally been dominated by higher education? How might these new initiatives influence or hinder your institutional efforts to deliver market-ready learning? How well prepared is your institution to compete with such learning channels? Are there opportunities to partner with these new delivery platforms?
Tyton Partners recently surveyed the landscape for adaptive learning, which it defines in part as “technological learning solutions that adjust to a learner’s interactions and performance.” Finding that more institutions are piloting adaptive learning—though not yet at scale—researchers noted that the practice of “adaptive teaching” is evolving as more faculty learn how to use and apply adaptive technology.18
At first, adaptive learning was viewed as a means to help individual students learn in ways that best suit their learning styles. As adaptive learning technology has matured, the focus has shifted to how it can influence pedagogy. To what extent have faculty at your institution begun to pilot-test adaptive learning? How can your institution help more faculty adopt the tools of adaptive learning?
The Deloitte University Press reports a marked uptick internationally in the practice of “people analytics”—using people-related data to make better management, business, and HR decisions. In HR, for example, companies use people analytics to help assess which job candidates are most likely to be successful and most likely to stay with an organization. The use of people analytics also helps employers identify staff with leadership potential.19
Increasingly, universities that use data analytics to improve student performance and success are recognizing that analytics can also improve business practices. Could “people analytics” help your institution make better HR decisions, find future staff leaders, and even improve customer service and innovation? How might your institution capitalize on the use of this emerging tool? What kinds of privacy questions might such activity create?
How can universities encourage faculty to adopt technology? Penn State’s approach might be instructive. As part of an ambitious portfolio, the university’s Teaching and Learning with Technology group supports faculty fellows and offers awards for faculty engagement. Among many other endeavors, recent initiatives helped faculty redesign courses into blended formats and explored how data collected via Apple Watch could improve student learning.20
Whether on a scale like Penn State or not, your university needs a comprehensive plan to help faculty members adopt technology. What new strategies can your institution use to spark durable faculty engagement? How well has your institution defined the value proposition for technology in the classroom, especially in terms of student engagement and outcomes? If your faculty aren’t using technology in their courses, why not? If there are cultural barriers, how can you overcome them with incentives and faculty champions?
Fiscal constraint is the new normal in higher education. What are some of the implications for learners and learning?
Under a groundbreaking new program, Purdue University will enable students to receive money for college with the condition that they pay it back after they graduate and get a job. Under the Income Share Agreement (ISA), students agree to pay a percentage of their income post-graduation over a defined number of years. Purdue says the option is not a loan and will cost students less than a conventional with-interest student loan.21
As the cost of college continues to rise and more students from low-income households seek to enroll, we can expect to see more creative solutions for paying for college like Purdue’s ISA. Would your institution be open to such out-of-the-box ideas? What other new strategies might your institution adopt to keep college affordable and accessible?
A new report from the Education Trust, Using Data to Improve Student Outcomes, digs into how four leading universities tease out and apply insights from data to improve learning. While the report says that no single method worked for every college, effective strategies included making improvement a campus-wide focus with clear support from top leaders, ensuring data accessibility, analyzing student pathways and customizing student services, and building a campus culture of inquiry and improvement.22
How effective is your institution in applying data to improve student outcomes? Does your strategy for using insights from data to improve learning need fine-tuning—or an overhaul? How can you engage more faculty members in using data to improve learning? More broadly, how can your institution build a culture that draws on insights from data to improve learning?
Expect to see more critiques of the value that higher education delivers based on insights from student performance data. The think tank Third Way, for example, recently analyzed data on nonprofit four-year colleges from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard. It found a suboptimal record of students graduating, finding good jobs, and being able to repay their college loans—findings the group categorized as “a stunning level of institutional failure.”23
How can your institution better share facts about affordability, accessibility, graduation rates, where graduates get jobs, and similar factors that matter deeply to stakeholders? How can your institution make a better case for how it adds value, not just in the classroom but through service work, outreach in the community, linking learning to civic engagement, regional economic development, and development of new products— all the qualities that enrich civic life in our democracy? Is your institution prepared to lead that conversation?
With student debt now totaling more than $1.2 trillion and average individual debt estimated to be approaching $30,000, public concerns about that burden continue to build. Apart from the impact of debt on individuals, a spate of recent articles has suggested that student debt may impact the national economy. A prominent economist recently said that there is mounting evidence that student debt “is holding back auto spending, home ownership, and general economic activity.”24
Apart from more proposals and pilot testing of “free tuition,” expect to see more discussion about policies to relieve student debt burdens. Expect such discussions to color campus policies and decisions about financial aid—and alums’ capacity for future donations. How can your institution “do more with less” and make college more affordable? How well is your institution prepared for another recession? Are there mutually beneficial partnerships your institution can pursue now?
For some students, just having enough to eat can be a barrier to learning. At the City University of New York, for example, 40 percent of students reported having issues around access to food. After finding that a quarter of its students skipped meals to save money, the University of California allocated $75,000 to each of its campuses to improve student food security.25
Student hunger can be one of those problems that hides in plain sight. To what extent is food insecurity a factor at your institution? How do you know? With more low-income students coming to college, ensuring that all students have regular access to food may become a more pressing concern. Does your campus have a plan to address this problem?
To control costs and make college affordable for learners, J.P. Morgan expert James F. Lock suggests that universities consider opportunities to share services in such areas as accounts receivable, human resources, payroll, purchasing, audit and compliance, and food services. But it’s critical, he says, to articulate goals for shared services, garner leaders’ support, time the rollouts of shared arrangements carefully, and train staff well to participate in shared services.26
Potentially a strategy for helping colleges focus on the core mission of learning, shared administrative services may also be gaining traction as a strategy to help universities contain costs. Has your institution fully explored all of its options for shared services arrangements? Do some of those options merit a deeper look? Has your institution developed specific goals for such strategies? Are staff trained to engage in shared services efficiently?
State spending for higher education never bounced back after the recession. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that in 2015–16, 45 states were spending less per student than they did before the recession.27 In some states, universities struggle to remain open while legislators delay appropriations. In general, the amount of state money that is available for higher education remains constricted and contracted.
Diminished state support has significant implications for learners and learning. The financial viability of academic programs will continue to be scrutinized, and those that underperform may be weeded out based solely on fiscal performance. Tuition may need to rise. The era when institutions could offer a full smorgasbord of programs may be ending. Instead, institutions may need to reenvision themselves with a focus on specific programs in which they excel.
As countless factors continue to disrupt higher education, we’re hearing louder calls for different practices in college leadership and management. Think less about the present and more about the future, one book argues.28 Other experts say institutions and their leaders need to shake free of the status quo and learn to be more innovative. Positing that changing institutional culture is key, a university president warns that “reshaping [the] most entrenched of organizational qualities takes time, intentionality, clarity, and relentlessness.”29
Most colleges and universities probably find change difficult. But current trends are making change an imperative. How can your institution retool itself to embrace change? How can it make changes more nimbly? How can its leaders be more creative and open to innovation? How can operational practices be more transparent and collaborative? How can your institution reshape its culture so that it is ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges?
As we learn more about the nature of learning, adopt new pedagogies, and continue to integrate technology into higher education, colleges and universities are adapting their physical environments to accommodate that evolution.
When Bentley University redesigned its MBA program, it also redesigned the spaces where business students learn. Eschewing horseshoe-shaped rows of desks, Bentley’s MBA Studio looks more like a classroom for students in architecture or design programs. Students gather in teams at technology-enabled tables linked to smartboards that encourage collaboration and student engagement.30
Writing in University Business, Chip Wiggins, Bentley’s dean of business, spoke of striving to ensure that MBA students “work collaboratively, digitally, and dynamically” and noted that Bentley is advancing similar goals in renovated undergraduate learning spaces it calls “collaboratories.”31 As your institution rebuilds and repurposes learning space, is it maximizing opportunities to use digital tools that foster student collaboration?
As more learning migrates to online platforms, more attention is being given to the design of the online learning environment. To keep online learning engaging, the educational technology services company Remote-Learner suggests strategies that promote “immediacy,” such as liberal use of videos and other multimedia content, timely and individualized feedback, firm deadlines, and forming a sense of community among students.32
Assuming your institution offers online learning, does it merely migrate traditional classes to an online environment, or is it intentional about incorporating digital tools and developing a different learning experience? How might the institution improve the design and delivery of its online courses? What new approaches or tools might be needed to measure the effectiveness of online learning?
Modeling how universities and their communities can be active partners in community learning ecosystems, more than 20 communities have partnered with universities to form the MetroLab Network—collaborations within and across communities to research and develop technology-enabled solutions that address community needs.33
Colleges and universities have abundant expertise that can help their locales, regions, states, and the nation as a whole use technology to improve civic life. Current efforts are helping reduce traffic congestion, fight crime, foster economic growth, and improve delivery of municipal services. Is your institution doing all that it can to help build “smart” communities? Is it sharing news about such accomplishments with stakeholders like legislators, local politicians, students, and parents?
If you are looking for evidence that the classroom environment directly impacts a student’s engagement in learning, ongoing research by Steelcase Education makes that case. In the SCUP journal Planning for Higher Education as well as in other publications, the company has demonstrated a statistically significant connection between classrooms specifically designed for active learning and improved student engagement.34
For skeptics, data about how classroom design improves learning can speak volumes. Do planners at your institution draw on the relevant research to make this case?
This year’s California Higher Education Sustainability Conference recognized the University of California, Santa Cruz’s, minor in sustainability studies and its undergraduate research program in sustainable living. Current student research projects include developing an eco-friendly tiny house and studying ways to convert UCSC vehicles from fossil fuels to electricity powered by a campus solar system.35
Reflecting the breadth of its commitment to sustainability, UCSC was also recognized for its work to retrofit buildings with more energy-efficient lighting and its comprehensive, institution-wide road map to carbon neutrality. In light of UCSC’s example, how comprehensive are sustainability efforts at your institution? Can you document how they impact both student education and administrative operations? How could such work be improved?
Recent research by Radius Global Market Research suggests that classroom screens may not be big enough. Evaluating the readability of projected content, researchers found that 58 percent of students could not read content displayed on a 70-inch flat panel in an average-sized classroom.36
Campus accessibility is not just an issue for people with disabilities. In basic classroom design, is the technology sufficient to support usability for all students? Are display screens large enough and sharp enough to be able to be read by students in the back of the room? What can you do to help students who find it difficult to hear the professor or classmates?
Budding entrepreneurs at the University of Virginia can visit no fewer than eight spaces across campus designed to encourage invention and collaboration. A fabrication lab helps computer designs come to 3-D life. Hackville is a clubhouse for designers, makers, and programmers. The Scholars’ Lab Makerspace specializes in the humanities and arts. And i.Lab provides coaching and courses for students and faculty who are “innovating the future.”37
If your institution wants to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit, makerspaces and related campus spaces can work together to make the whole more than the sum of its parts. Is your institution thinking, planning, and acting in strategic ways to tease the maximum value out of such collaborations? Are there ways to take scattered efforts and link them into an ecosystem devoted to innovation?
Three organizations of architects, technologists, media staff, and higher education planners in the United Kingdom are behind the new UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit. Mixing discussions about changes in pedagogy with a focus on technical and process considerations, the book compiles best practices and ideas for learning space planning in higher education. The book also nudges planners with a technical bent to develop a deeper understanding of learning theory.38
Institutions rely on staff expertise for quality learning space planning, but to what extent do your staff members think beyond their specialties to how learners learn and pedagogy works? Could such perspectives improve the quality of planning? Moreover, how can planners from disparate specialties and departments learn to collaborate better and share ideas more openly?
The ever-changing landscape of U.S. public policy presents opportunities and challenges for higher education. While decisions in state houses and on Capitol Hill may sometimes seem removed from individual campuses, they often have a direct impact on learners.
We continue to see a steady stream of state-based efforts to control how student data are used. In April 2016, the Data Quality Campaign reported it was tracking 94 student data privacy bills in 31 states. The DQC also said it expected more enacted legislation to join six new laws in four states already on the books.39 Meanwhile, in 2015, Congress was considering or had passed eight data privacy bills.40
Expect debate and legislative activity to continue around protecting student privacy while also ensuring access to data that can support student learning. Expect student interest in data privacy to also persist. How is your institution balancing privacy concerns with its need for access to data? Are the right people on campus part of big-picture conversations about data? Have campus policies been updated to reflect emerging considerations about data privacy?
Ten states have now enacted legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. That phenomenon prompted the American Council on Education to offer a session at its 2016 annual meeting exploring how guns on campus may change the nature of the learning environment. Panelists said campus carry laws may have unintended consequences on learning—particularly when classroom discussions focus on sensitive topics.41
If “campus carry” is a factor in your state, have administrators, faculty, trustees, students, and other stakeholders at your institution engaged in conversations about how such policies might affect the learning environment? Has your institution reviewed policies and practices that might be affected—such as those concerning the training and conduct of campus police?
Tracking trends in academic credit transfer policies, the Education Commission of the States notes that more than 30 states now have policies mandating transferable core lower-division courses and statewide guaranteed transfer of an associate’s degree. The ECS says the fact that 15 states now have reverse transfer policies—offering more mobility of credits between two- and four-year institutions—signals “a growing change in the way we think about transfer of credit and conferring degrees.”42
The ECS reports that a third of the students who entered higher education in 2008 transferred to a different institution at least once within six years. Demographic trends suggest that tomorrow’s students will continue to move between institutions. In response to such trends, has your institution updated its academic credit transfer policies? Do those policies serve the evolving needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students?
Federal data released in April 2016 underscore recent student demographic trends. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that enrollment of students aged 18 to 24 years old will increase 12 percent between 2012 and 2023, compared to 23 percent for students aged 25 to 34 and 17 percent for students 35 and older. During that same period, increases in enrollments of Black and Hispanic students are projected to jump 25 percent and 34 percent respectively, while enrollment of White students will increase just 7 percent.43
Upcoming changes in the student population have been well documented for some time. Accordingly, many institutions have significantly retooled not just their enrollment management strategies but also the way they serve and support new student populations. Has your institution fully addressed the impact of a changing student body across all campus functions? What more could and should it be doing?
Study results published by the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education suggest that state policy decisions have rendered college less affordable. The College Affordability Diagnosis also found that financial aid doesn’t go as far as it used to, that rising prices mean that community colleges “can no longer be considered an affordable option,” and that wages of working students often do not cover the costs of attending college full time.44
While the Penn GSE report argues that states need to change their policies to make college more financially accessible, it also says that universities must look at their sticker price and financial aid practices. Researchers say affordability policies are particularly out of alignment with the financial realities of low-income students. How well does your institution meet the financial needs of this growing college population? Are changes in policies and practices needed?
A new student guide from the Institute of International Education (IIE), Preparing to Study in the USA, offers 15 tips to help international students succeed in the United States. In addition to suggesting that learning critical thinking and pursuing a liberal education can give international students a global advantage, the guide also urges them to proactively learn to navigate life on a U.S. campus and to get involved in campus activities.45
Many U.S. colleges and universities are recruiting more international students. But how well are U.S. institutions serving that growing student population? Does your institution offer services to help international students acclimate? Are those services scattered across campus or consolidated comprehensively in one place? How well does your institution encourage international students to engage in the life of the campus?
We’re seeing greater interest in helping prison inmates earn college credit. Last summer, the Obama administration launched a test program to enable incarcerated Americans to receive Pell grants.46 More states are also doing more—for example, California recently funded community college programs in four prisons,47 and New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a plan for the state to pay for inmates’ college courses.48
A 2013 Rand Corporation study found that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than their counterparts who do not participate.49 Can or should your institution do more to provide higher education for individuals in correctional facilities? Might incarcerated individuals represent an underserved population in need of such outreach?
An insightful report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences shows that states face pressure to increase funding for Medicaid, prisons, pensions, K–12, and infrastructure—all of which compete with higher education for state financial support. Spending on corrections has grown faster than spending on higher education for some 30 years now, and 11 states now appropriate a higher percentage of their funding for prisons than for colleges and universities.50
Looking at the big picture of state spending, it seems likely that competing priorities will continue to impact and perhaps reduce state spending for higher education. Every institution that receives state support in any form will have to find ways to cope with a potentially shrinking portion of state appropriations. What more can your institution do to cut costs? How can it diversify its revenue so that it relies less on state support? And how can it make a stronger case for funding to state legislators, the public, and other key stakeholders?