Inflation and labor shortages set to squeeze college budgets, Moody’s says — from by Rick Seltzer

Dive Brief:

  • Colleges face their highest expense growth in over a decade as rising costs combine with wage inflation, labor shortages and a push to hire, according to two new reports issued this week by Moody’s Investors Service.
  • At the same time, volatility has returned to the investment market, and recent public funding increases are waning, Moody’s said. Colleges also face mounting enrollment uncertainty that raises risks for tuition-dependent institutions that lack a national brand and deep pockets.
  • Most of the U.S. higher education sector will remain financially stable in the near term thanks to strong endowment values and liquidity levels that grew recently, the reports said. But Moody’s analysts expect the converging pressures to squeeze many colleges’ budgets in fiscal 2023 and beyond.

The Future Trends Forum Topics page — from by Bryan Alexander


The Future Trends Forum has explored higher education in depth and breadth. Over six years of regular live conversations we have addressed many aspects of academia.

On this page you’ll find a list of our topics.  Consider it a kind of table of contents, or, better yet, an index to the Forum’s themes.

Also see:

Since we launched in early February, 2016, the Forum has successfully published three hundred videos to YouTube.  Week after week, month by month, over more than six years we’ve held great conversations, then shared them with the world, free of charge.


Per Johann Neem, the innovations that promise to save higher ed are a farce.

The University in Ruins — from by Johann N. Neem
The “innovations” that promise to save higher ed are a farce.

From DSC:
First of all,
I appreciated Johann Neem mentioning and/or discussing several books in one posting:

  • Ronald G. Musto’s The Attack on Higher Education (2021)
  • Arthur Levine’s and Scott J. Van Pelt’s The Great Upheaval (2021)
  • Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins (1996)
  • Ronald J. Daniels’ What Universities Owe Democracy (2021)

And as a disclosure here, I have not read those books. 

Below are excerpts with some of my comments:

It’s already happening. Today, we walk among the ruins of an institution that once had a larger purpose. It’s not clear what role universities should play in society, and to what or to whom they are accountable, other than their corporate interests.

To some, that’s not a problem, at least according to Arthur Levine and Scott J. Van Pelt in The Great Upheaval (2021). They see higher education undergoing the same transformation that reshaped the music, film, and newspaper industries. Rather than place-based education overseen by tenured professors, they anticipate “the rise of anytime, anyplace, consumer-driven content and source agnostic, unbundled, personalized education paid for by subscription.”

Between Musto’s existential fears of disruption and Levine and Van Pelt’s embrace of it lies a third path. It takes the form of a wager — outlined by Ronald J. Daniels in What Universities Owe Democracy (2021) — that universities can and should continue to matter because of their importance in civic democratic life.

The article covers how the learning ecosystems within higher education have morphed from their religious roots to being an apparatus of the nation-state to then becoming a relatively independent bureaucratic system to other things and to where we are today.

Along the journey discussing these things, one of the things that caught my eye was this statement:

Hopkins, in this sense, lived up to its founding president Daniel Coit Gilman’s 19th-century aspiration that universities be places that acquire, conserve, refine, and distribute knowledge.

From DSC:
While I completely agree with that aspiration, I think more institutions of higher education could follow what John Hopkins University did with their efforts concerning the Covid-19 situation, as Neem mentioned. Generally speaking, institutions of higher education are not distributing knowledge to the levels that Gilman envisioned years ago.

In fact, these days those working within K12 are doing a whole lot better at sharing information with society than those who work within higher education are. For example, when I search Twitter for K12 educators who share content on Twitter, they are out there all over the place — and many with tens of thousands of followers. They share information with parents, families, fellow educators, students, school boards, and others. Yet this is not the case for those working in higher education. Faculty members normally:

  • aren’t out on Twitter
  • don’t blog
  • don’t have a podcast
  • don’t write for society at large. Instead, their expertise is often locked up — existing behind paywalls in academic journals. In other words, they talk to each other.

Later on…

As Daniels intuits, without a larger purpose to hold them fast, there is nothing to prevent universities from being buffeted by winds until they have lost direction. That is what Readings foresaw: Globalization liberates universities from national fetters, but at the risk of ruin.

From DSC:
While globalization may have something to do with universities becoming unanchored from their original purposes, globalization isn’t at the top of my mind when I reflect upon what’s been happening with colleges and universities these last few decades.

To see but one area of massive change, let’s take a brief look at college sports. There are now multimillion-dollar stadium projects, enormous coaches’ salaries, and numerous situations where tax-paying citizens can’t even watch sporting events without tons of advertisements being thrown into their faces every few seconds. Personally speaking, on numerous occasions, I couldn’t even access the games at all — as I wasn’t paying for the subscriptions to the appropriate providers.

Also, as another example of becoming anchored — and going back to the 1980’s — I attended Northwestern University for my undergraduate degree in Economics. While I have several wonderful lifelong friends from that experience for whom I’m deeply grateful, even back then NU had already moved far away from its motto which is based on Philippians 4:8.

Instead, please allow me to tell you what that learning community taught me and strongly encouraged me to think about:

  • You are only successful if you have the corner office, drive the higher numbered BMW’s, and have many people reporting to you.
  • If you make a lot of money.
  • You are supposed to compete against others vs. being in relationships with others. As but one example here, our test scores were published — by our Social Security numbers — outside our professors’ offices for all to see how we measured up to our classmates.

In fact, I’m not even sure that I would use the word “community” at all when I reflect upon my years at Northwestern. Instead, a WIIFM approach was encouraged (i.e., What’s In It For Me? where you are supposed to look out for #1). It took me years to unlearn some of those “lessons” and “learnings.”

But I realize that that’s not the case with all learning communities.

As Neem alluded to, I love the idea that an institution of higher education can — and often does — impact students’ hearts as well as minds. That was the focus at Calvin College (now Calvin University). Our oldest daughter went there and she was profoundly and positively influenced by her experiences there. In that context, students were encouraged to be in relationships with one another. There was plenty of hugging, praying for one another, etc. going on in that setting. There truly was community there.


Neem doesn’t think much of Levine’s and Van Pelt’s perspectives. He claims there’s nothing new in their book. He seems to discard the arguments being made about the cost of higher ed and, like many others, clings to the intellectual roots/purpose of higher ed.

While I’m not against intellect or pursuing knowledge — in fact, I’m all for it — I just have a problem when the price of doing so continues to become out of reach for soooooo many people.

Personally, I’ve tried to lower the cost of obtaining a degree within higher education for many years…but I was/we were only successful in doing so for a few years (and that was during a pilot of online-based learning). Yohan Na and I created the graphic below in 2008 for example — as I was trying to raise awareness of the dangers of the status quo:


So from a cost/access perspective, Levine’s and Van Pelt’s perspectives here sound pretty good to me. It appears to be much more affordable and realistic for the masses. Otherwise, the image/reality of the ivory tower is maintained…allowing “intellectuals” to continue to live and operate within their own sphere/hive/tribe.

Also, we need an AI-backed system of presenting which skills are needed and then how to get them. The ways things are set up today, institutions of traditional higher education have not been able to deal with the current pace of change out there.

As a final comment here…
The changing directions/purposes of institutions of higher education present a good example of why I entitled this blog Learning Ecosystems — as the systems that we use to learn and grow in are constantly morphing:

  • People come and go
  • Tools and vendors come and go
  • Purposes, focuses, and/or mission statements change
  • Our sources of information (i.e., our streams of content) come and go
  • Etc.

Who Does Your College Think Its Peers Are? — from by Jacquelyn Elias


Each year, universities choose their peer institutions when reporting their data to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds. In return, they receive a customized report that compares their performance to that of their selected peers on various measures, like enrollment, graduation rates, and average staff salaries.

The Chronicle compiled the peer institutions for nearly 1,500 institutions from the 2020-21 year. Explore to see whom your college considers to be its peers — and who thinks your college is its peer.


A skier going off a cliff

Will Your College Survive the Demographic Cliff? — from by Jon Boeckenstedt
National trends are interesting — but enrolling students is a local challenge.


We are at a critical moment: Declining enrollment even in one sector (say, community colleges) is troublesome because of downstream effects. Declining revenue and wavering state support, coupled with fewer high-school graduates, fewer families that don’t need financial help, and an increasingly negative attitude from the public toward higher education, may take us to a long-rumored tipping point.

If it’s true that all politics is local, then in some sense so is (almost) all college enrollment.


Census Bureau Releases New Educational Attainment Data — from; with thanks to The Chronicle of Higher Education for this resource


FEB. 24, 2022 — Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released findings from the Educational Attainment in the United States: 2021 table package that use statistics from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement to examine the educational attainment of adults age 25 and older by demographic and social characteristics, such as age, sex, race and nativity.

Also from The Chronicle, see:

Higher Ed 101: The Credential Cluster — from with Sean Gallagher, Michael Horn, and Jeff Selingo

Higher Ed 101: The Credential Cluster



3 Questions for Susan Aldridge — from by Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim


According to RNL research (2022), over each of the last five years, face-to-face undergraduate and graduate enrollments had a net decline, while online enrollments have seen significant expansion. The pandemic further accelerated online growth. University presidents and provosts are taking advantage of the post-pandemic environment to transform their universities by building digital ecosystems.


I’d like to thank Mr. Ryan Craig for the following resources (via his weekly e-newsletter): 

Reducing Barriers: Indeed Removes Degree Requirements From Eligible Roles — from

In keeping with this commitment, we have removed university degree requirements from all eligible job profiles. This change has impacted 700+ job profiles across all of our business units and we will continue to use our degree evaluation process when creating new job profiles. Removing this barrier will allow us to engage, attract, and hire a wider pool of qualified applicants applying for jobs across Indeed. 

Why America Has So Few Doctors — from by Derek Thompson
As a matter of basic economics, fewer doctors means less care and more expensive services.

Trying to give students in low-wage majors some extra skills they can cash in on — from by Olivia Sanchez
A pilot program offers microcredentials that can help students find success after graduation


Right Now, Your Best Employees Are Eyeing the Exits– from by Marci K. Walton
To stay, they need better pay, reasonable hours, and an end to mission-based gaslighting.


Right now, your best midlevel manager is updating her résumé. Your hardest-working director is controlling his excitement after learning the salary range for a private-sector opening. Your most trustworthy entry-level professional is writing a resignation letter because her new corporate position doubles her pay and doesn’t require nights or weekends.

Two years of pandemic life have left campus staff members beyond burned out. They are done. And they are leaving or thinking about it in droves. I know because I was one of them. After nearly 13 years working in residence life — a field to which I was deeply committed — I left higher education last March for the private sector. The move increased my salary by 50 percent and cut my workload in half.

This tweet was mentioned/linked to in the above article:


Higher ed groups call for stricter oversight of accreditors — from by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf

Dive Brief:

  • Sixteen experts and advocacy organizations in higher education are calling for stricter U.S. Department of Education oversight of accreditors, particularly in how they handle colleges with poor student outcomes.
  • The groups and individuals wrote to the Education Department late last month recommending ways to make the evaluation process for accreditors more transparent and asking agency officials to more closely scrutinize several major accreditors up for review in February 2023.
  • Among their suggestions were that the Education Department should make certain documents public early in the process of accreditors seeking department approval, that it should spend more time reviewing accreditors that control access to federal financial aid funds than to those that do not, and that it should develop new regulations to make sure accreditors consider how institutions are serving disadvantaged students.

Wages and Salaries Up 5% for Private Industry Workers in 2021, Less Than Inflation
— from by Stephen Miller
Labor costs increased at the highest rate in two decades

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

However, when adjusted for inflation, “constant dollar” private wages and salaries fell 1.9 percent for the 12 months ending December 2021. 

Consumer prices rose 7 percent year-over-year in December 2021, the largest 12-month increase in nearly 40 years, the BLS reported on Jan. 12, adding pressure on employers to raise wages going into 2022.

From DSC:
Real wages not keeping up with the rate of inflation here in the United States…this doesn’t look good for the higher education industry here. This could be yet another component of the perfect storm within higher education.


These 3 charts show the global growth in online learning — from by Johnny Wood; with thanks to Ray Schroeder out on LinkedIn

Example chart:

Also relevant/see:

The company has launched 13 new degrees with colleges since 2021, bringing the total number of bachelor’s, master’s and postgraduate degrees up to 38, according to Maggioncalda.

2U saw $152.4 million from its degree segment in 2021’s fourth quarter, about 11 times the revenue Coursera brought in from its degree business over the same period. 


What Makes a Great School Website Design [with Practical Tips and Examples] -- from by Boril Obreshkov

What Makes a Great School Website Design [with Practical Tips and Examples] — from by Boril Obreshkov


A school website is much more than means to list information online. It’s the front gate to your school community, representing its values and philosophy. A well-made school website design and structure can help build a reputation for the institution, create an entire concept for how first-time visitors will view it, and ultimately give the school an advantage over competitor schools. In this article, we’ll talk about what makes a great school website, with many examples and practical tips on how to improve your virtual hub of knowledge!

Things Great School Websites
Have in Common >>

Also relevant/see:

Digital branding is key for everyone in education — from by Matthew Lynch


People in the educational sector tend to face lots of competition. Currently, there are tons of colleges, universities, and most training centers. This means that there’s a high need for everyone in education to venture into the building and create a unique identity for their brands. In this way, people can have the opportunity to stay ahead of their competitors in a tangible manner.

One way that this can be achieved is through educational digital branding. It’s a cost-effective and more efficient means of targeting the right audience. In this piece, we will talk about how you can implement digital branding, especially in education.

You are using your school website wrong — from by Matthew Lynch


Part of the problem is that developing and maintaining a useful school website is quite a big undertaking but isn’t super urgent. Because of this, it often falls through the cracks. Another issue can be ownership of the project.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes made when designing and keeping school websites.



S&P raises view of higher ed sector for 2022, but colleges’ fortunes are diverging — from by Rick Seltzer


  • S&P Global Ratings revised its view of the U.S. not-for-profit higher education sector to stable, ending four years of negative outlooks even as it said it is monitoring divergence in fortunes between strong and weak institutions in the market.

Some stressed institutions will be able to leverage high-value real estate, branding or strong programs into a merger or affiliation, according to the ratings agency. But with colleges competing for often-shrinking pools of students, S&P expects more closures — especially of small, regional, private liberal arts colleges.

Also see:

Breaking Down Online Postsecondary Enrollment Growth in the United States — from
Welcome to the multi-speed online enrollment economy. The highs and the lows of the top 20+ institutions.

Digital capability is arguably the number one priority for US universities and colleges. Postsecondary enrollments in the United States are in decline, institutions are bracing for a much bigger 2025 enrollment crash (due to a falling birthrate from the last recession) and a tight labor market is encouraging employers to drop requirements such as degrees and instead embrace faster, cheaper and higher ROI online up-skilling programs.


Shorter Training, Better Skills: Three Predictions For The Future Of Career And Technical Education — from by Jeremy Wheaton; with thanks to Ryan Craig for this resource

But in the face of an entrenched and growing skills gap, young people are increasingly questioning the status quo and looking for shorter, less expensive, more direct-to-career options.


Here [is the first of] three predictions for how the rest of the 2020s will continue to be defined by career education:

  1. The four-year degree will no longer be seen as the default postsecondary education option.
© 2022 | Daniel Christian