As technology continues to grow at a rapid rate, trends are changing every day, especially in the higher education industry. While it can be difficult to predict what exact trends and challenges we’ll face, we take a look at the top four trends that we see having a huge impact on the higher education industry in 2017.


Trend 1 – Data is here to stay.

Data will continue to move the needle at universities, including the use of data to increase enrollment rates, retention, graduation rates, alumni engagement, and giving.

Collecting, analyzing, and implementing tactics based on analyzed data is becoming a high priority at universities across the country. University of Maryland College, for example, is using predictive analytics to reach out to students at crucial times to increase student success and retention. Washburn University, an open-access public institution, is using predictive analytics to identify particular trends like “students on campus persist at higher rates” or that “students who live on campus are less likely to leave than those in off-campus housing.”

Many leaders are eager to implement predictive analytics at their institution. However, before data can be applied to business decisions or be used to improve student success, it’s extremely important to have proper protocols and systems set up to ensure good data is collected. As Sharon Blanton puts it, “It’s about building an infrastructure, both human and technical, to have the right tools, providing the right data, at the right time.”


Trend 2 – Security

81% of higher ed IT leaders said they will spend more on the cloud this next year. With the scalability of the cloud, it’s no wonder why this trend began to catch on a few years ago. However, with the fast growth of the cloud comes a greater importance of security. According to University Business, 42 universities and colleges were victims of cyber attacks in 2014 alone. And more concerning, the average cost of a data breach for higher education institutions in the U.S. is $225 for each compromised record.

Due to this rising threat, many universities and colleges are beginning to implement cyber security initiatives for 2017. One area were institutions can proactively promote cyber security is through user education. Educating students, faculty, and staff on issues like phishing, unsecure personal devices, and identity management is a great tactic to promote security at institutions.

Using an online orientation, you can efficiently educate students, faculty and staff on best practices in cyber security. Educause provides free resources and content on topics to include in an orientation promoting cyber security.



Trend 3 – Tackling Student Debt

In our last blog post, we mentioned the fact that U.S. student loan debt is at an all-time high, totaling $1.3 trillion. Many universities and colleges see a desperate need for change when it comes to crippling student debt. But where do institutions start?

The same predictive analytics that are being used to increase retention rates and student success can be used to help students graduate on time, reducing the amount of loans needed.

A desire for lower tuition is also leading to a rise in non-traditional initiatives, like Virginia Community Colleges’ pilot program for a statewide open textbook initiative. More and more students are also looking to online programs that offer a less expensive alternative to higher education with a focus on specific career skills rather than traditional curriculums.

Universities and colleges are also banding together to decrease barriers like expensive tuition and increase the number of low-income students who enroll in particular colleges. The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is made up of over 90 partner schools (and counting) and supports lower-resources and underrepresented students.



Trend 4 – Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are here to stay.

With the huge popularity of Pokemon Go and Snapchat in 2016 among the younger generations, higher ed is paying attention to the rise in AR and VR.

What’s the difference between VR and AR?

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are both huge buzzwords that have been in the news lately – but what’s the difference between them? Virtual reality essentially immerses us into a new world, bringing us out of reality (for example, a VR headset like Google Cardboard). Augmented reality takes reality and adds to it (for example, Pokemon Go). As Cramer, a brand experience agency, explains it, “Virtual reality is like swimming with the sharks, while Augmented Reality is like watching a shark pop out of your business card.”

As universities and colleges continue to seek ways to reach out-of-state and international students, virtual reality and augmented reality will play a huge part in bringing the campus environment and student life to prospective students, no matter where they are.

VR campus tours have been on the rise for a few years, but now students are able to experience these tours though more advanced VR headsets instead of their desktop. Even better, universities like NYU are giving students a first-hand look at student life through the latest trend, Snap Spectacles.

As the younger generation continues to become more connected every day, barriers like distance will continue to be knocked down. Providing students with experiences, rather than simply presenting content on a webpage or email, will drive the success of higher ed marketing.