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The future higher ed student will be very different from the traditional one. He or she will more likely be a person of color.1 He or she is more likely to require a flexible and accessible education, not limited to a schedule of four school years of daily classes. And he or she will expect to not be tied to one physical location to travel to or to live near.

If public policy and the efforts of many colleges succeed, the future student is also more likely to have a lower income.

What can you do to better serve this future student?

  • Be explicit about what your college offers and be honest about whether it will help students achieve their goals. It may be that another kind of college is a better fit.
  • Expose students to a greater range of opportunities than they may have imagined, especially if yours is a liberal arts institution. Don’t just respond to what they say they need. Ask questions, prompting a conversation that can lead to a truly personalized choice.
  • Tailor your support services to meet the diverse needs of students from many different cultural and economic backgrounds. Assess whether what you have is actually a “one-size-fits-all” model designed for white middle-income students. If that’s the case, set a course for change.
  • Provide strong mentoring programs.Give studentsat least one “coach” to provide emotional, logistical and academic support in navigating your institution and its offerings.
  • Offer instructional programs through a variety of delivery systems — face-to-face, flipped, hybrid and purely online — so students can choose what best suits their learning styles and life patterns.
  • Focus on affordability — keep costs low enough to attract and retain students for whom cost can be a deal-breaker.
     

Serving the future student — indeed, today’s student — calls for exploring and implementing institutional changes in the delivery of academic offerings and student support services, and for fully understanding evolving student needs and interests. It is essential, and will become more so, to your institution’s ability to continue to attract, retain and satisfy those students. 

Back to The State of Higher Education in 2015

1 Aud, S., Fox, M., KewalRamani A. Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups (NCES 2010-015). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 2010.