Home Economy Ipsos Survey for World Economic Forum Indicates Shifted Expectations for Online Higher Ed
Ipsos Survey for World Economic Forum Indicates Shifted Expectations for Online Higher Ed

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.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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