Just in the last 20 years, universities and colleges have transformed from solitary campuses filled with your typical classrooms and lecture halls to worldwide entities that spread out across the globe, offering unprecedented access to educational opportunities. Given these monumental shifts, its difficult to imagine what the next 20 years will bring to higher learning.

Based on the collective expertise of our staff here at Education Today, we’ve come up with the following four predictions of what the college students of tomorrow will be able to expect from their universities:

1. Location flexibility

What started as a few distance learning programs from a few non-profit and for-profit institutions has spread to nearly every college and university. Online classes are allowing universities to beam degree programs to students anywhere, meaning that a University of Minnesota student can attend lecture from the West Coast. And what we’re seeing now is just the beginning of this trend.

Inevitably, with technological improvements in online education, every university will extend their reach via the Internet to anywhere in the world, and it will be in their best interest. At a smaller cost per student, universities will be able to pick up more students to cover their burgeoning costs. Although this won’t completely erase the need for brick-and-mortar campuses, the online opportunity will be irresistible for all universities and colleges.

2. Higher tuition rates

If there’s anything the last 30 years have proven in college education, it’s that tuition rates will continue to rise, often at higher rates than inflation. Although it would be optimistic to believe that colleges and universities will start to behave more like businesses and start cutting costs, history says otherwise.

Students of the future can expect to pay far more, even adjusted for inflation, than their 2012 counterparts in tuition and fees.

3. More training-based alternatives

As people in the U.S. find it necessary to only get the training they need for the career fields, more training-based alternatives will rise up to replace the longer, more theory-heavy degree programs of today. This won’t happen for all fields of study, obviously. Fields that are almost purely academic, like the humanities or sciences, will still keep old-fashioned degree programs.

But for technical degrees, expect more training programs that allow students to bypass the theory and get right into practical application in a shorter amount of time.

4. More difficult degrees

It’s clear that bachelor’s degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. Even master’s degrees, once the domain of eggheads and overachievers, are now regarded with the same shrug of indifference that used to be reserved for associate’s degrees. You can blame this on grade inflation, diploma mills, and what have you, but colleges and universities can only allow the value of these degrees to depreciate so much before they have to fight back and restore their value. One way they will attempt to increase their value will be to make these degrees more difficult to obtain again.

So what are you looking forward to in the university of the future? Floating classrooms? Teaching robots? Holographic blackboards? Share in the comments below!

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