T wenty years in the future, college students will major in nursing, business, engineering and informational technology.
Thanks to virtual reality, their learning will extend beyond the boundaries of the classroom. When they come to class, they’ll spend less time listening to lectures and more time in small groups working as teams to solve problems.
Higher education will cost less and greater segments of the population will be able to access it.
These are some of the predictions for the future of higher education made by officials at Germanna Community College and the University of Mary Washington.An expanding Germanna
Michael Zitz, spokesman for Germanna Community College, said that in 20 years, the institution will have a greatly expanded footprint in the region, with new facilities reflecting the popularity of studies in the fields of nursing and health technology.
“We will have established a full campus in Stafford County serving 5,000 to 10,000 students and built a new, cutting-edge nursing and health technologies facility at our Locust Grove Campus,” he said.
The GCC center in Culpeper will also be expanded into a full campus serving 2,000 students and the Caroline County Center will be bigger.
And because of the increasing effectiveness of online, distance learning, classrooms at the GCC of the future will be oriented more toward lab space and group activities that cannot be experienced online, Zitz said.
Increasing online learning opportunities will also result in lower tuition costs.
“Our tuition is already half to one third that of a typical university, but we would like to charge even less,” Zitz said.
He said higher education will be necessary in order for the country, as well as states and localities, to stay competitive in a global market.
“We hope that government will see higher education as more and more of a priority,” he said. “More of a public sector commitment to making college affordable would lower tuition.”
Zitz said GCC’s student body will be even more diverse in terms of income level, age, ethnicity and disability.The enduring value of liberal arts at UMW
Troy Paino, University of Mary Washington president, said UMW also will be more diverse in 20 years.
“That’s for sure,” he said. “Demographic trend lines are pointing us in that direction, even in next the five to seven years, at all schools, but in particular Mary Washington.”
He hopes UMW will have broadened its accessibility to “non-traditional” students—those already in the workforce.
He said there are many factors governing how much higher education will cost 20 years in the future, but he thinks that tuition rates will stabilize or at least stop outpacing the rate of inflation.
“We’re butting up against the limits that families can afford and access will continue to be a priority,” he said.
Technology will continue to change the way students learn and the way professors teach, he said. Because students are living—and will continue to live—in a digital age with vast amounts of knowledge accessible through the devices at their fingertips, the role of the professor will change.
“Faculty members won’t be the font of information,” Paino said. “Their focus will be on how to create intellectual discipline.”
UMW will continue to offer online and hybrid courses, but even with an increasing amount of courses taught this way, there will still be a need for a residential college environment.
“There are elements of the residential college experience you can not replicate,” Paino said. “If our country is wise, it will continue to invest in having a space where people go and live and learn together, because ultimately, in order for us to have these difficult conversations with people who look, believe, worship and vote different from us, we need to live with them and go to class with them and be in community with them.”
Paino also doesn’t think that the core classes of a liberal arts education will change in 20 years. People will still need to learn how to write and communicate well and how to reason both qualitatively and quantitatively.
“It will be about adapting the traditional liberal arts to a digital age,” Paino said. “I think what you’ll see is that a lot of the traditional majors will continue to adapt and continue to change to try and respond to rapidly changing world.”
“Exposure to a broad spectrum of human inquiry, sparking a student’s intellectual curiosity and instilling that intrinsic value of learning—those things will be even more in demand 20 years from now,” he continued.