Home » Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Some say higher education will largely return to pre-pandemic normal in the coming academic year or two. Others predict the mass extinction of colleges and universities.

Both are extreme ends (and highly unlikely scenarios) of the spectrum of what might happen to higher education. Somewhere in between those extremes, though, are eleven clear and lasting changes to higher education as a result of the pandemic:

1. The test-optional movement will become permanent. Although many colleges and universities announced such policies as temporary during the pandemic, these will become lasting changes to the world of college admissions. One of the big reasons relates to #2 below.

2. Higher education institutions will be increasingly and lastingly held accountable to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) metrics. This will be most prominent in ensuring the student population is more diverse, but it will show up in faculty and staff hiring priorities for diversity as well. Pre-pandemic, higher education institutions paid more lip service to these priorities. Going forward, they will need to make real commitments to DEI because many constituents will begin holding them accountable for their progress.

3. Although most students desire a return to in-person learning, the majority also want to continue having the option to take classes online. This will force permanency – driven by student demand – in colleges and universities continuing to offer many options for fully online and hybrid learning.

4. Relatedly – and even for classes continuing in-person only – it will become a norm that all lectures are video recorded for student review later. When asked what they’d like to see continue after the pandemic, the top preference among college students (desired by 79% of them) is to keep lectures available online.

5. There will be strong and lasting demand among both faculty and staff to continue to have work-at-home or other virtual work options. Just as many workplaces are contemplating permanent changes to place-based work, the same trends will apply to colleges and universities.

6. Linked to numbers 3, 4 and 5 above, the long-standing emphasis on building the physical infrastructure of college campuses will give way to an emphasis on building the virtual infrastructure. Capital campaign priorities will move toward fundraising for more online degree and non-degree programs as well related virtual student services.

7. Virtual internships and jobs are here to stay and will grow in prevalence. Much like classes were forced online during the pandemic, so too were internships for college students and jobs for freshly-minted graduates. As employers have become accustomed to the shift to virtual internships, they are beginning to see tremendous advantages to them – including being able to recruit more diverse candidates where physical location used to be a barrier (think cost-prohibitive locations such as Washington DC or San Francisco). Additionally, there is strong evidence that non-white students greatly prefer virtual internships and jobs over white students.

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