Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Dramatic Demographic Shifts in Higher Education

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Dramatic Demographic Shifts in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Wwas amazed to read recently that many children bom this lyear are likely to live to be 100! A full 25 percent of them Awill hit the century mark.

Further, they will have not just one distinct career but three or four. Some will have as many as seven. All of that by the time they retire at the ripe new age of 80.

That's correct. Many, if not most, will work well into their late 70s. Medical doctors report that the 80s are the new 70s.

What else does the future hold? A great many variables. The only definite certainty is change. Change in how we learn, think, work and live our daily lives.

But we have experienced dramatic changes since the World War II. It has favored most, but not all, Americans. Every indication is that the pace will not abate; instead it will accelerate exponentially in ways many of us can't begin to imagine.

Nationally most want all children to become literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts to provide them the best foundation possible to pursue a career and transition easily to new ones.

Everyone agrees industry and government should focus on creating more jobs that are enduring and satisfying. Unfortunately we see few productive steps being taken to reach those goals.

Demographics and Hispanics

Hispanics will be by far the dominant minority/majority in the country. California already refers to Hispanics as the majority minority. Hispanics may not actually achieve their oft promised "decade" but their growth and influence is inevitable. The present 14 percent will grow to 20 percent very soon. The cohort will be composed mostly of native bom Hispanics, not recent immigrants.

As the economy improves in this country, or as it worsens in Latin America, the historic and unending northward migration will accelerate. It may never end.

Hispanics continue to have more children than other groups. That will abate someday but not for a generation or two.

Public schools will continue to educate, be that as it may be, most Hispanic children. Half of them are not making it through high school. Many who do or those who attend "the school of hard knocks" will gravitate toward higher education. Their major entry portal will be their local community college. Since the beginning they have been committed to helping the newcomer, the late bloomer, the displaced homemaker, the tentative part-time student and on and on. Their mission will not diminish, quite the contrary.

Demographic Shifts Ahead

Few things impact a region or a nation more than significant demographic shifts. The same is true for colleges. We are who our students are. We all know about the continuing explosive increase of Hispanic young people in the country. Those numbers are going to increase exponentially and more will want to go to college. But there is another wrinkle in the nation's changing and challenging demographics, one that will impact higher education dramatically.

Declining population numbers

Declining numbers? Is that a typo? No. One section of the nation is going to face just that. Specifically, we will see declining numbers of Caucasian, privileged high school graduates. Their numbers are in free fall, and will be even more so in the years ahead. It will spell trouble, at least discombobulation, for the hundreds of quasi-elite colleges that depend upon receiving yearly tuitions from that cohort to survive.

It's a given. Some predict those colleges will shrink, some might even disappear. The more optimistic view, however, suggests the population changes will compel institutions to transform themselves. Throughout history they always have. I suspect they will embrace, some screaming and kicking, under- represented students as they never have before.

Whatever scenario plays out student makeup in colleges is going to change. That's an open secret among adroit admission officers. We see it accentuated in Midwestern and Northeastern states where the number of high school graduates will drop sharply over the next decade. …

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