One thing that any science fiction set in the far future has to do is not only have new technologies but to improve the ones we have.
This is often neglected in areas that are not flashy. This requires you understand how the technology works in the most basic way, and to know what holds it back.
For example let us look at guns. Guns as they are known today have been around for a while, I would be surprised if they were that different in practice in fifty years then they are today.
However if they were significantly different I would say the change would have to come from the way in which the round is accelerated. If we ever make hand size rail guns then we could see rounds move much faster and be much smaller. Gunpowder has a limit to how much force it can impart, the only limit a rail gun would have would be how much power you can carry with you and how strong your materials are. This could mean that each round could have the same force as a modern round but it would weigh only 1/10th as much so you could carry ten times as many in one clip.
Another example is planetary travel, meaning cars, trains and planes. The biggest hard limit to these is the speed of sound, while I doubt we will ever see cars able to routinely get close to the speed of sound, planes and trains do it often.
That is the reason bullet trains don’t travel faster then they do. If you wanted to travel to the other side of a planet faster then sound without this issue you would have to either leave the atmosphere or find a way to not produce a sonic boom. Leaving the atmosphere could mean going sub-orbital or it could mean you have a tube on the ground with no atmosphere that a bullet train goes down.
Lastly if you wanted to have collage degrees free, you could just have thing work like they do now, or you could change how collage works entirely.
If I were to write a near term sci-fi where free collage was a major part of the society, and seen as vital then I would not have collage work as it does now. Right now it is very inefficient and does not take much advantage of the information age.
You could create an online system where you had several lectures for each class, you could pick the one that worked best for you. If you had questions you could ask any number of people who are hired for that task, or other students online. You could take a test to pass the class at any time. This would be about as cheap as you could make it, at least if your working at a large scale.