Home » Future of Higher Education » Why Higher Education May Be Headed Toward a Hybrid Future
Future of Higher Education

Why Higher Education May Be Headed Toward a Hybrid Future

Jeffrey Selingo didn’t intend to make a living out of writing, speaking, and advising on higher education.

Jeffrey Selingo

Author, “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions” and Professor of Practice, Arizona State University

He didn’t come from a family of college-goers, nor did he graduate from a high school where the majority of his fellow graduates went off to college

“I kind of fell into higher ed somewhat accidentally,” said Selingo, who is the author of three bestselling books, the most recent of which is “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.” Selingo is also a special adviser for innovation and professor of practice at Arizona State University, a co-host of the podcast Future U, and a regular contributor to publications such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

At the same time, higher education was a present theme in Selingo’s life starting with his own college career at Ithaca College in New York.

A budding passion

In Ithaca, Selingo was editor of the student newspaper The Ithacan and later interned for U.S. News & World Report in Washington D.C. as a researcher for the publication’s “Best Colleges Guidebook.” When he returned to Ithaca his senior year of college, he covered Cornell for the local paper, The Ithaca Journal. Selingo said the latter two opportunities piqued his interest in higher education. 

What sold him on the field was a job he landed at the Chronicle of Higher Education, which he was fueled in part to take due to his goal to work in Washington, D.C. The joy he derived from the role surprised him, and he ended up staying at the company for 16 years and holding several positions. 

“Not only did The Chronicle help me understand those trends, but over the past six years, what I’ve really done, whether it’s through my books, my webinars, or my writing, is try to explain the system to the rest of the world,” he said.

A promising future

Now he’s dedicated his life to helping the public understand the intricacies of the U.S. college system, which he noted consists of thousands of institutions that serve 20 million people each year. He also shares insights on what higher education could look like in the future.

“I think for most of the people from the outside who may come in contact with college once in their life, they don’t always have a sense of exactly how it works,” he explained, noting that most people’s view of college is “outdated” and “institutional-centric.”

“For example,” Selingo continued, “we think most students live on campus and go full-time, and they’re 18 years old — when all of those things are really the vast minority of higher ed.”

He explained that a general expectation in society is for a high school graduate to pick a major and go to college; they can’t just take individual classes, and they must obtain a four-year degree. And if they want to switch schools, transferring those credits isn’t always easy, especially if that happens later in the student’s life. 

Employers may not value non-college learning providers the same way they do college credits. And in some cases, a college or university may not certify the learning in a way that gives the student a credential that they can list on their resume.

Need to adapt

This lack of flexibility may be a reason college enrollment rates are dropping, Selingo said. “I think the problem is they’re not necessarily providing the programs or the types of pathways that students want.”

During the pandemic, many students dropped out because it was expensive and they weren’t satisfied. 

“Now I think they’ve been looking for alternatives, and again, the traditional higher education system hasn’t really been offering that,” Selingo said. “And so, to me, it’s like, ‘Try to figure out what your learners want. Go out and survey them, see what they’re saying in the marketplace.”

Maybe some people want low-residency options, where they work off campus for a couple of months and come to campus for a couple of weeks to learn, or maybe others want a more hybrid campus where all types of learning and services, such as wellness and financial aid, are offered online. 

As for the future of education, Selingo suggested it’s vast. Namely, he thinks this hybridization only scratches the surface. “Some of this is hybridization,” he said, but “I don’t think that’s all of it.”

Next article