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Higher education — what the trends tell us

You don’t need a Ph.D. to notice that the landscape of higher education is shifting.

• Students have learned there’s more than one path to a degree, and they increasingly are taking the online route. As of fall 2020, approximately 14 million college students, about 74 percent — were enrolled in at least one distance education course, and 46 percent of college students were enrolled exclusively in online courses, according to

• The composition of the student body is changing and no longer dominated by young people fresh out of high school. According to U.S. News & World Report, 37 percent of college students are 25 or older, while 24 percent have children or other dependents. More and more nontraditional students are returning to school as adults to grow their skillsets and make themselves more marketable in an increasingly competitive workforce.

• Finally, but significantly, the future of higher education is looking very female. As of spring 2021, women comprised a record-high 59.5 percent of all U.S. college students, according to Georgetown University.

So what is the takeaway from these trends? For those enrolling in college, and for the schools themselves, there’s plenty of challenges ahead, but an even greater amount of opportunity.

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