2020 changed a lot of things. It’s been a crazy year. As we wind down and anticipate 2021, let’s examine what changed in higher education and what we can look forward to in the future:
1. Online college goes mainstream.
2020 brought college online. For just about everyone.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Zoom University” became a thing.
For some of us who are used to online classes, this seemed quite natural. Other schools, faculty, and students had adjustments to make. The evolution of the digital world has revealed how accessible education can be.
Students can learn from just about anywhere with an internet connection. This opens the door to so many amazing opportunities! Flexibility allows students to work, build roots in a community, and travel to expand their perspectives and learn even more.
2. Higher Ed moves further Left.
A rather turbulent year has also brought more attention to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve made great progress since the age of segregation.
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On the other hand, the new emphasis on diverse opinions has had the ironic effect of marginalizing certain perspectives.
Christian students are finding less open ground on campuses around the country as higher education shows its true colors. Decades of Leftist faculty have fortified anti-Christian thought in our nation’s universities. Now, Christian students face an assault on their core beliefs and challenges to their freedom of speech and conscience.
3. We question the cost.
Online college’s move to the mainstream in 2020 has revealed that if it’s just a matter of teaching information, colleges are charging too much.
Higher education needs to deliver more value.
On top of that, the debt crisis has grown and now 44 million Americans are buried in student loan debt.
While this is a complex problem to address, let’s start by promoting functional education that provides practical life preparation at an affordable cost.
4. Community no longer taken for granted.
Lockdowns and quarantines have led to a lot of isolation for college students, many of whom are accustomed to having friends and other fellow students around.
Really, the whole world has learned that community can’t be taken for granted. Building deep relationships helps us get through years like this one.
Learning how to build relationships and community is just as important as academic studies for students. It’s a life skill that will pay off for the rest of a student’s life.
5. Certifications bring competition to the market.
This year, Google announced its certification program is coming soon. The plan is to offer training and certification for in-demand skills that will open doors to high-paying jobs.
Universities offering degrees for tens of thousands of dollars now have a formidable competitor. Google’s certifications will be much more affordable than a traditional degree. Furthermore, over 50 businesses (including the likes of Walmart, Sprint, and Bank of America) already plan to treat these certifications as degree equivalents since they teach practical skills that prepare students for success in a real job.
While these training courses from Google are still on the way, the announcement itself has revealed new opportunities to rethink higher education and preparation for life and career growth.
2020 has changed the landscape of higher education in a lot of ways. The traditional approach of most universities is flawed and the future requires a more practical approach.
Jace Bower serves as a Content Development Specialist for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.