As student debt rises, more people are doubting the significance of a college education. This creates a dilemma for universities and colleges as they struggle to meet student numbers. Experts urge higher education institutions to innovate for their sustainability, yet it seems they are yet to get started on this journey. 

Steven Mintz, director for the University of Texas at Austin, addressed the question by pointing out that numerous advances have already been made through online courses and improved curriculum, to name a few. However, he also identifies areas were higher education has failed to innovate.



Higher education institutions try to reduce spending by offering online courses, which can reduce their structural cost. But it also means a reliance on non-tenure track instructors, according to Mintz.

College tuition is already rising six percent above the inflation rate and if this continues, fewer people would be able to afford it, creating a problem for institutions to continue running.



Academic transfer offers students an opportunity to study at a lesser cost by starting out in community college and transferring credits earned to universities. Efforts to make it easier are being done, said Mintz, as some universities are creating programs to require four-year public universities to apply certain community college courses to their majors. However, it’s still fairly new.



A McGraw-Hill Education (MHE) survey showed that only four in 10 college students feel very or extremely prepared for their future careers. Higher education institutions are now partnering with companies and other organizations to help students acquire practical skills and certifications for their career. Many majors, however, still don’t consider it a priority.



Mintz noted that, despite tools to assess student learning such as the VALUE Rubrics by the Association of American Universities and Colleges, there’s still a lack of information on learning outcomes.

He added that the difficulty to collaborate across departmental and institutional lines remains as a hindrance to innovation in higher education.