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Education Trends

3 Predictions for Higher Ed in 2020

Richard Garrett, chief research officer at higher education research firm Eduventures, has released three predictions for 2020 and at least two of them expect innovative education to beat out traditional — at least by some counts.

In a recent article, Garrett suggested that certificate programs will continue their double-digit growth in 2020 even as master's programs sputter; and coding bootcamps will outdo master's degrees in computer science.

For the first prediction, Garrett pointed out that the five-year completion rate for a graduate certificate was 33 percent compared to 9 percent for master's degrees, and the one-year completion rate was 11 percent versus 2 percent, respectively. However, he noted, the total number of completions for certificates was just 71,000 compared to 827,000 master's degrees.

So, Garrett isn't calling out advanced degrees as being under threat yet. His thinking is that the "real action" could be elsewhere: specifically programs such as the ones run by 2U (GetSmarter) and Emeritus, which partner with top institutions in delivering short graduate-level programs. Those two companies alone represent about 39,000 students pursuing that type of advanced education.

The bottom line: "Certificate enrollment is bigger than it first appears, and it would be a mistake to assume that conventional for-credit programs are the only currency that matters."

For that second prediction, Garrett compared the number of graduates in master's degree CS programs to CS bootcamp graduates. While the latter grew between 2018 and 2019, the former "stalled."

Garrett said he believes that because international enrollment makes up the majority of CS students and the "Trump-era climate and renewed competition from other countries" has squeezed U.S. international enrollment, the result is an overall depression in this country for advanced degrees in CS.

He also observed that some master's programs are doing much better than others. For example, the top 10 largest players delivering CS master's degrees saw growth of almost 113 students, he said. For the other 500-odd schools, the typical gain was less than one student.

But Garrett isn't counting out traditional master's degree programs. As he wrote, "One year does not a trend make." And the competition between the two forms of education will continue apace as universities open up their own bootcamps in partnership with operators such as Trilogy.

As for his third prediction, Garrett said he expected no recession in 2020. What does he base that on? The novel idea that adult undergraduate enrollment — which is "sensitive" to the economy — continues to be low.

For details on that — and more insight about the other predictions — read his column on the Encoura website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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