The convergence of four major factors impel SNL to think broadly about the future of higher education for adult students.
Pressure for Education. The first factor is the increasing pressure for worthy education. Demands and opportunities of contemporary life make it imperative that people learn on an ongoing basis-even as they have less time to study. In businesses, community organizations, churches, hospitals, government organizations, schools, and community groups, people seek continuous upgrading of their knowledge and skill. Making ethical choices and developing capacity to work collaboratively are key to contemporary education and practice. This is true in the United States and other developed nations, as well as in emerging and underdeveloped areas.
Global Integration. The second factor is the impact of global integration. Increasingly, individuals must attend to issues that formerly stood far from their consciousness. Scientific and engineering revolutions have reduced barriers across space. Transportation, the Internet and telecommunications compel nations, organizations and peoples to build networks across boundaries. People work remotely from afar, competing and collaborating with people they cannot see. Provincial approaches to problems are rarely relevant, and thinking adults must become familiar with practices, values, and assumptions of people in distant places.
Availability of Information Through Emerging Technology. The third factor is the increased availability of information through emerging technology. Adults world wide can retrieve, store, manipulate and use data in entirely new ways. There is intense need to learn what is possible and to think about the meaning of the capabilities. Online learning options multiply, bringing with them compelling questions of effectiveness and viability.
Widening Education Gaps. The fourth factor is the dramatic widening of the educational gap within the United States especially relative to the educational preparedness of other nations. The November 2005 report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education sounds the alarm that the population of the United States that has completed a bachelors degree will decline within the next decade, just as the level of education within other nations is on the rise and the need for more education grows. The key resource in the 21st century will be knowledge, and our ability to develop skilled, flexible workers who know how to quickly seize knowledge and adapt to shifting tastes and markets is the fundamental challenge to furthering our economic bounty.