Ipsos Survey for World Economic Forum Indicates Shifted Expectations for Online Higher Ed
On behalf of the World Economic Forum, global marketing research firm Ipsos surveyed 27,500 adults in 29 countries on how they see higher education being delivered in five years. Kate Whiting, a senior writer for the World Economic Forum, reported that the majority of adults surveyed believe that the split between online learning and in-person learning that has been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic is here for the long run (note – this indirectly confirms Scott Galloway’s comment in his recently published book, Post Corona, that the pandemic has accelerated a decade’s worth of change in five months). Even more interesting is the finding that just over half of the adults surveyed believe in-person learning is worth its cost.
Another noteworthy survey finding is the statistic that nearly three-quarters (72%) of the respondents said higher education in their country would be conducted online at least as much in person, if not more. One in four (23%) believe higher education will move mostly online while around half (49%) think it will be split (note: 50% of the U.S. respondents believe it will be split with 20% believing it will be mostly online).
Given Ipsos’s experience and reputation as a market research company, this is earth-shaking news for higher education administrators and boards who are planning the rebuilding of their institutions post-pandemic.
Ipsos’ survey asked respondents about the cost of higher education. Just over half (53%) agreed that in-person higher education is worth its cost, compared to 36% who disagree that it is worth its cost. Only 46% of adults in the U.S. agreed that in-person higher education is worth its cost.
Ms. Whiting noted that globally, men aged 50-74 and with a university degree (59%), agree that in-person higher education in their country is worth the cost. I would enjoy finding out what the percentage of younger adults without degrees (say 25-49) think about the cost given that it’s that group that colleges and universities are looking to recruit as students.
It’s my assumption that a link to this article will not find its way to the desk of many college and university presidents in the U.S. After all, the majority of adult students who earn their college degree wholly online attend less than 100 institutions. Most leaders of residential colleges are crossing their fingers (maybe praying too) that the vaccine allows a return to normalcy by Fall 2021 at the latest.
Unless the Biden administration finds a way to fund a massive bailout of those institutions, I think the only institutions that may experience “normalcy” will be the elite institutions that have built their reputations by accepting 10 percent or less of all applicants.
All others will need to consider how they can increase revenues to cover operating costs or decrease operating costs to offset decreased revenues. The fixed cost business model for higher education is woefully out of date and depending on whose prediction you believe, the percentage of U.S. colleges and universities that may go out of business over the next five years ranges from 30-50%. The Ipsos survey is just one more example where the handwriting is on the wall.