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Module 5: Preparing Today for the Students of Tomorrow


  • Learn more about what is on the horizon for higher education.
  • Consider how the needs of students of the future may change.
  • Discover ways to prepare yourself and your organization for the future.


To help more students realize their education and life goals, colleges and universities will have to evolve and transform over time. The shifting profile of students seeking post-secondary education, advances in technology, and the changing needs and wants of societies around the world, are just some of the factors that will impact the American system of higher education.

It can be challenging to stay focused on the needs of students today, and simultaneously adapt to better support the students of tomorrow. Some of the resources in this module offer a view to factors that are driving big change in higher education. Other resources may help you think about ways that you could make little changes in your day-to-day work on your campus, regardless of your role, that can have an impact on a student who is navigating their higher education journey.

The content of the module can help users:

  • Gain a better understanding of the changing demographics of students.
  • Consider how colleges and universities may need to change to achieve more equitable student outcomes.
  • Learn ways to evaluate and improve how we engage with, and support students.

Tips for Using This Module

  • Group Meetings and Staff Training: Select and share videos that support your goals during staff meetings. Use the Featured Video Worksheet (below) with groups, or as an individual.
  • Onboarding New Staff: Integrate resources into onboarding materials for new hires.
  • Individual Professional Development: Provide access to resources to staff to support their personal learning goals and professional growth.

Welcome Message

A current student shares her perspective on how institutions can meet the needs of adult students who return to college to finish a degree.

Other Modules

If this module doesn't meet your needs, visit the other modules for additional resources.

Introducing More About Tomorrow's Students and Meeting Their Needs

Use these brief videos to kickstart the conversation during your staff-training session.

Changing Demographic of Today's College Students

This video is (1:10)

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What are the changing demographics in higher education and how should institutions adapt?

Goldie Blumenstyk | UPCEA Conference| This video is (3:08)

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Undergraduate enrollments continue to decline at US Colleges and Universities.

Doug Shapiro |National Student Clearinghouse Research Center | This video is (6:57)

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Reflection Questions

After watching the introductory videos, encourage participants to think about or share their thoughts.

  • How might the profile, and needs of students who attend your school change in the years ahead?
  • What kind of impact might the changing needs of students have on your current systems and processes?
  • If you could do one thing to help others at your school think about and prepare to address the needs of students in the future, what you do?

Featured Video

Use this video and worksheet as a starting point for you or your team.

Featured Video: Redesigning Higher Ed for Student Success

Dr. Bridget Burns | National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) annual conference | (43:53)

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Follow-up Worksheet

Use this worksheet as a follow-up activity with your team or staff members.

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In-Depth Videos

Use these videos to learn more about the future of higher education.

Demographics and education’s future

This video is 1:00:10.

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How College Fails Us: Reimagining Higher Education

This video is 16:23.

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A New Landscape Addressing an Evolving College Population

This video is 36:54.

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Additional Print Resources

Download these print resources for to use in staff-training or as an individual.


These books offer an in-depth look at pathways to student success.


Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education

By: Bryan Alexander

In Academia Next, futurist and higher education expert Bryan Alexander addresses these evolving trends to better understand higher education's next generation.

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The Agile College: How Institutions Successfully Navigate Demographic Changes

By Nathan D. Grawe

Nathan D. Grawe explores how proactive institutions are preparing for the resulting challenges that lie ahead. While it isn't possible to reverse the demographic tide, most institutions, he argues persuasively, can mitigate the effects.

Learn More

Downloadable Toolkits

These print resources offer an in-depth look at pathways to student success.


A Legislator's Toolkit for the New World of Higher Education

This series of briefs seeks to inform legislators about the current challenges to public postsecondary education so that they can form strategic approaches to building systems responsive to future statewide economic needs.

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Center for Urban Education Equity Tools

The Center for Urban Education Racial Equity Tools aim to change the minds, hearts, and practices of faculty, staff, and leaders—all of whose collaboration is essential to achieve racial equity in higher education.

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Student Success Center Toolkit

The toolkit features materials created and used by existing Centers, such as staffing and budgeting templates, launch materials, sample meeting agendas, and fundraising and sustainability information.

Read Now