The announced closing of several small colleges already this year should serve as a warning. Things have to change.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Enrollment Shortfalls Spread to More Colleges

A broad swath of private colleges across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions are expected to miss their enrollment goals for the fall semester. That growing trend now includes some institutions that have rarely, if ever, had to worry about filling classes.

Bucknell University, for example, expects that its freshman class this fall will be about 2 percent smaller than planned, or a total of roughly 960 students, said William T. Conley, its vice president for enrollment management.

That’s not a death sentence for the Pennsylvania institution, which admits just 30 percent of applicants. But it could be the proverbial canary in the coal mine for a segment of higher education that has, so far, been buffered by an abundance of students willing to pay a high price for an exclusive educational experience.

“I do get the sense that more than a handful of highly selective colleges missed their enrollment targets this year,” said Robert Massa, who still talks with enrollment professionals across the country after a 45-year career in financial aid and admissions. He retired from Drew University in February.

Ithaca College, which enrolls nearly 5,500 undergraduates, is larger and less selective than Bucknell, admitting about 70 percent of its undergraduate applicants. But the college, in upstate New York, will have some 175 fewer freshmen and $4.6 million less in tuition revenue than planned, said its president, Shirley M. Collado.

Several other college officials and higher-education consultants confirmed that they are seeing enrollment problems at numerous institutions.