Factors Influencing Higher Education

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson is going to explore some of the major factors that have the biggest influence on higher education. We'll look at examples of how these factors can influence colleges, universities and technical schools.

Higher Education

Career. Money. Stability. Higher education, or education at any institute above the high school level, is often sought after as a means to obtain these goals. Colleges, universities and technical schools are institutions of higher education where students can enroll in diploma, associate degree or 4- or 5-year degree programs. The operations and success of higher education institutions depend on many factors, some of which they control and others they do not. Let's explore some of these now.

Institutional Factors

Program variety is one factor that influences higher education. Some institutions choose to focus on specific career paths versus program variety. Institutions with many programs tend to have larger student bodies and therefore larger class sizes. This influences the level of individualized attention students receive, which can be conducive for some students while detrimental to others.

Career-focused colleges offer courses specific to the career field and tend to be more individualized, which works well for students who require more attention in order to retain information. Attending a career college can be a great decision for students who know what they want to do. However, these schools sometimes do not provide students with the flexibility of being able to switch programs, which students who aren't fully decided may need.

How the institution operates is another factor. All higher education used to be delivered on campus. The Internet has brought along the ability to attend school online. Some institutions offer the ability to do both in what are known as hybrid programs. Going to school on campus is a beneficial offering for students who require face-to-face contact or hands-on learning. However, online programs are ideal for students who do not live near a school that offers their program of study. This also holds true for those stationed overseas in the military.

The technology used at institutions also impacts education. Recent high school graduates entering higher education grew up with computer technology, so schools using technology will likely get a positive response from these students. However, the use of technology across the board could deter some adult learners who might not be as experienced with new devices and programs. This influence is tremendous considering there has been a slow shift in the number of younger students and older students.

Faculty is arguably one of the biggest institutional factors that influence higher education. The qualities sought after in a professor vary from one institution to another, and this leads to professors with varying levels of experience in their fields as well as in education. A more seasoned professor might be more help to students than one who does not have quite as much experience. This goes both ways because a newer professor may adapt easier to or already be familiar with the newer technologies that younger generations are accustomed to. Among other factors, quality of higher education would depend on a balance in types of professors.

Socioeconomic Factors

Social and economic factors play a role in almost everything, and higher education is not an exception. Every year there is a list released of the top colleges and universities. Of course, every institution of higher learning wants to be on that list. In order to do this, postsecondary institutions must have top ratings in several categories, including faculty, dorms, student life activities and sports teams.

While all of these things can certainly lead to a better quality of higher education, they can also subtract from one. The push to make things seem nice in order to have a high ranking, does not always lead to things being as nice as they seem. The institution has to offer the ideal setting for both faculty and students in order to achieve this goal.

The demographics, or characteristics, of the average student have been changing over the last couple of decades. There will always be a good amount of younger students entering higher education institutions right after high school. What we are seeing now is that many adults are deciding to go to college, either because they did not go early on, want to change careers, or simply want to add another degree to their belts. This forces institutions to create programs, facilities and flexibility for working adults with families as well as young students who want to enjoy their first experience being on their own.

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