The last decade, the years 2010 to 2019, saw many changes happening in higher education, including growing tuition costs, dwindling youth population, and much more. Opportunities and uncertainties alike greet the sector as educational institutions find ways to sustain themselves and flourish amid changing times. Here are some trends in the past 10 years will shape the future of higher education as we move into the future.


The start of the decade saw a significant decrease in college and university applicants, mainly with fewer and fewer high school graduates. Experts predicted that the number of high school graduates would continue to fall well into the next decade and the college-going demographic will decrease by 15 percent. As a result, institutions will start to feel the weight of increased competition for students as they fight to stay open, relevant, and a viable choice for remaining prospective students, including international ones.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 100 education institutions closed down between 2016 and 2018, leaving thousands of displaced students. Those that have stayed afloat are experiencing decreased profit or are merging with other colleges such as the case with smaller public colleges.


The Institute of International Education reported an increase in foreign students by 50 percent in the school year 2017-18 compared to the year 2011-12. There are over a million international students currently enrolled in higher education in the United States, making up 5.5 percent of the total student population. The last couple of years, however, saw challenges with dwindling numbers as a result of increased tuition costs and changes in the social and geopolitical climate.


The US Federal Reserve revealed that student debt increased by 107% the past decade. From $772 billion in 2009, student loan debt now collectively adds up to $1.5 trillion. Perception of higher education is affected as students are reconsidering whether college is still worth the cost, but this is also a golden opportunity for institutions and organizations to step up, reevaluate and optimize their financial aid programs.


The increasing demand for applicants and the hesitation of students brought about by increased costs have caused institutions to offer discounts, financial aid, and other options to ease students’ financial burden. Institutional grant per student climbed by 91.3 percent between school years 2008-09 and 2018-19, according to research from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

These trends and movements are visible not just in the United States but also in Canada, Australia, Europe, and other markets that face the same challenges of finding new college-bound students. Internationalization has become a sustainable solution to this dilemma, particularly in navigating the ongoing complexities of student recruitment. Find out more about the international education landscape in these key markets through our research reports.