As part of the disaggregation of higher education, the first thing to go might be the concept of a degree. It used to be widely believed that if you had a college degree, you had a job for life. Well, the last 5 years have put that idea out to pasture. Today the main difference between an unemployed high school graduate and an unemployed college graduate is a mountain of student loan debt. People will always find an alternative especially as technology makes more alternatives available.
Some of these alternatives are coming from the universities themselves I am happy to see.
Schools are responding to these students by creating specialized programs, including short-term programs to help the unemployed return to the workforce with updated skills. Some colleges may even offer certificates, though the skills learned will probably be more valuable than the credential. Of course, some of these skill seekers already have a degree, and are either supplementing their skill set or trying to correct a poor decision to seek an esoteric degree as an undergraduate.
I wrote 18 months ago I listed 6 things universities needed to do to survive the next 10 years. Here’s number 4.
The 18-24 year old market won’t be big enough. In an ever changing world, the rest of the population is your new market. Cultivate relationships with life-long learners.
This will however start to cannibalize the existing degree seeking market, and also cut into other revenue such as housing and sports. Still, it’s a start. We’ll see how long it will take to change the market.
The inevitable result from this will be a push towards alternate credentialing and skill evaluations. If companies can’t rely on a degree anymore as a filter mechanism, another will have to be created.