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Expert Predicts up to 25 Percent of American Colleges Will Close in Next Two Decades

Expert Predicts up to 25 Percent of American Colleges Will Close in Next Two Decades

“They’re going to close, they’re going to merge, some will declare some form of bankruptcy to reinvent themselves. It’s going to be brutal across American higher education.”

For years now, there have been warnings that the higher education bubble was going to burst. While we have witnessed the closure of many small schools this year already, one researcher at Harvard who studies higher education says the worst is yet to come.

Michael Horn, who studies and writes about colleges, suggests the rising cost of tuition and the economic downturn of 2008, among other factors, have created a perfect storm.

From CBS This Morning:

Expert predicts 25% of colleges will “fail” in the next 20 years

For the first time in 185 years, there will be no fall semester at Green Mountain College in western Vermont. The college, which closed this year, isn’t alone: Southern Vermont College, the College of St. Joseph, and Atlantic Union College, among others, have shuttered their doors, too.

The schools fell victim to trends in higher education – trends that lead one expert to believe that more schools will soon follow.

“I think 25% of schools will fail in the next two decades,” said Michael Horn, who studies education at Harvard University. “They’re going to close, they’re going to merge, some will declare some form of bankruptcy to reinvent themselves. It’s going to be brutal across American higher education.”

Part of the problem, Horn explained, is that families had fewer kids after the 2008 recession, meaning that there will be fewer high school graduates and fewer college students. “Fundamentally, these schools’ business models are just breaking at the seams,” he said.

The video report begins with the story of the recent closure of Green Mountain College in Vermont. When Robert Allen took over as president of the school in 2016, he knew almost immediately that it was too late to save it:

A recent report from Karina Huber of CGTN News echoes the case made by Horn:

Smaller colleges in the United States struggling to stay afloat

Small colleges across the United States are closing at an unprecedented pace as they struggle to attract students and face revenue shortages. Part of the problem is demographics.

The number of high school seniors is dropping – dramatically in some parts of the country – and students are growing increasingly concerned about student debt. CGTN’s Karina Huber reports…

According to Moody’s, in the next few years the closure rate for non-profit, U.S. private colleges will climb to around 15 a year—triple what it was in 2014.

A shrinking number of high-school seniors in the U.S. – particularly in the northeast of the country – is increasing competition among schools. There is also growing concern about student debt which hit $1.5 trillion this year.

“Students are taking out more debt. They’re questioning whether or not this is a good return on their investment. And they’re also tending to gravitate towards cities and colleges that are promising more of a career or job preparation. And so these smaller liberal arts colleges in particular in more remote areas with a lack of selectivity or national reputation, are suffering most,” said Bari Norman, Co-Founder of Expert Admissions.

Finally, we cannot ignore the roles ideology and politics have played in the decline of higher education. For that, let’s turn to a recent essay at American Greatness by scholar and author Victor Davis Hanson:

From Icon to Just a Con

Most of us who came of age in the 1970s revered the university—even as it was still reeling from 1960s protests and beginning a process that resulted in its present chaos and disrepute.

Americans of the G.I. Bill-era first enshrined the idea of upward mobility through the bachelor’s degree—the assumed gateway to career security—and the positive role of expanding colleges to grow the new suburban middle classes.

Despite student radicalism and demands for reform, professors had been trained in the postwar era by an older breed of prewar scholars and teachers. As stewards, they passed on their sense of professionalism about training future scholars and teachers—and just broadly educated citizens. In classics, I remember courses from scholars such as British subjects H.D. Kitto and Michael Grant, who lectured on Sophoclean tragedies or the late Roman emperors as the common inheritance of undergraduates.

Overwhelmingly liberal and often hippish in appearance, American faculty of the early 1970s still only rarely indoctrinated students or bullied them to mimic their own progressivism. Rather, in both the humanities and sciences, students were taught the inductive method of evaluating evidence in hopes of finding some common explanation of natural and human phenomena.

Hanson goes on to analyze how campus life and culture have changed over the years and not for the better. He also notes the relationship between government-backed student loans and the ever-rising cost of college, as well as academia’s embrace of pointless administration jobs.

I urge you to read the whole thing.

Featured image via YouTube.


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Most need to fail, and sooner than 20 years. Today’s colleges and universities are grossly failing their students. Instead of graduating adults with adult reasoning skills and adult coping skills and adult knowledge bases, colleges today are stamping out vapid, immature toddlers who have learned only how to throw temper tantrums if thwarted.

    casualobserver in reply to rabidfox. | September 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Not every graduate is a vapid missionary for progressive causes, but their numbers are certainly climbing.

    What a few HR folks I know tell me is that fewer are prepared to accept what was common just a decade ago and more – starting at the bottom in a job that may not even be what you wanted. Especially with graduates of non-specific and non-STEM degrees. Even in large companies where movement in the ranks is a given, more than before are just unwilling or too good to start “low” as they see it. They instead perhaps stay at home and live on parents…..I guess at least until they are 26…..

      OrJustThink in reply to casualobserver. | September 4, 2019 at 9:44 am

      I wonder if this growing trend has anything to do with the growing availability of information available to a mass audience. 20 years ago, there was little information easily available that convinced people to care about wealth inequality. People are starting to realize that the pittance being paid to employees, and the cost of living being inflicted are horribly un-balanced. I feel that I would probably be less likely to go back and do some of the bust-ass work I did in my youth, knowing that I would simply be lining the pockets of someone who already has more money than 20 generations of my spawn will ever see.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to rabidfox. | September 3, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    More like 50 percent in 5 years imo…..

    Did you hear? Hungry outlawed gender studies.

Cats n dogs living together. Mass hysteria!

‘Colleges close.’ All that means is many small private institutions will close. But Leftists will never surrender their gigantic, taxpayer subsidized, diversiversity marxist indoctination camps formerly known as univerities.

theduchessofkitty | September 3, 2019 at 11:35 am

My own college, from which I graduated 25 years ago, just shut its doors last month, after 155 years.

Professor Jacobson talked about it months ago.

I would hope more would close. Higher indoctrination is the only industry the left will allow make a profit without screaming

The only surprise to me is how long this is taking. About 15 years ago, before the political issues arose in anything like their current breadth or intensity, I’d predicted a collegiate shakeout because of the financial issues. I didn’t even consider the demographic issues.

I graduated in 1979 with a B.A. from the U of Wisconsin-Madison. In today’s money, my in-state cost was $54,000 for tuition, fees, books, room, and board. Today’s cost for 4 years will be about $170,000 plus any costs that outpace general inflation.

What other economic sector has raised prices by three-fold in the past 40 years? These costs have been growing faster than inflation for a long time, and the whole sector is unsustainable.

All that’s kept it afloat is inelasticity of demand. It’s similar to health care in that sense, but with a far higher psychological component. The education imperative runs very deep in this country. That’s mostly a good thing, but it has enabled all manner of distortions and abuses.

I think the future of higher ed will involve much larger on-line and community college components, and a much diminished “Eastern liberal arts finishing schools” component. If I had kids, I’d be steering them away from the 4-year residential model.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to RandomCrank. | September 3, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    I’m willing to say that in your day, there were not offices full of diversicrats, make-work “Dean” pisitions, and likely little or nothing offers for grievance studies.

      There was some of that, but not much. I had a wingnut prof or two, a commie prof or two, and mostly no-wingers. Books were a real rip-off even then, but I understand it’s much worse now. My only real complaint back then was that our comical student government was controlled by socialists who used activity fee money for B.S.

      But I happened to be there when the celebrated “Pail & Shovel Party” threw ’em out and used the fees to erect a papier marche (sp.?) model of the top of the Statue of Liberty on the frozen-over Lake Mendota, and to buy a whole bunch of pink flamingoes to stick on the main lawn.

      Anyway, my belief 15+ years ago that higher ed was ripe for disruption was 100% based on the finances. Campus politics was simply not on my radar screen then.

      But now that we’re talking about it, I often liken “Antifa vs. Proud Boys” to the occasional Saturday night fisticuffs in Madison between the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and some rag-tags claiming to be the KKK (back then, I wondered if they were actually commies in disguise.)

      We had the LaRouchies, the pro-revolution Iranians who wanted the shah gone, an occasional roaming Baptist preacher, and a guy with a guitar who we all called Gordon Lightfoot because those were the only songs he sang. At least he didn’t have an amplifier. No drum circles, and none of those Chilean pan flute guys.

    I agree. Some two-year schools will also go belly-up, but pricy, worthless four-year degrees will be the first thing to go (Ponder-Your-Navel Studies, for example).

    The irony is that if four-year schools had real liberal arts, education and business degrees at affordable prices instead of six-figure Antifa training seminars they would have a better chance to survive. As it is, even STEM degrees are slowly circling the drain at some schools as students are taught how to detect microaggressions and extract confessions of “white privilege” instead of solving differential equations.

      I want to be a fly on the wall when the Gender Studies, Art History, and Women’s Studies departments fight for scraps against the schools of Engineering and Agriculture.

        Kepha H in reply to RandomCrank. | September 3, 2019 at 7:59 pm

        Art history (which I read a bit of in my spare time) is a serious area of scholarship that tells us much about the trajectories civilizations and nations take. It is a travety to mention gender studies and women’s studies in the same breath.

      By the way, the future of higher ed will ultimately be decided by corporate hiring practices. Some years back, Starbucks announced that they’d pay the tuition for on-line education for any employee who wanted it.

      Now, if they’d just come out and say that those employees who complete those programs with good performance will get preferential consideration for management positions including at the upper levels, then the game will truly be on.

    Interesting to hear what things were like back then.

    That inelasticity of demand can be a real bear when everybody is getting money thrown at them by the govt and politicians are running around making promises to erase the debt.

Crap – Those that can – will do – the others teach – but no more teaching jobs for those that can’t do

And most of these temples of thought have Business and Economics departments.

Colleges depend on white 18-year olds. The number of those is going down. The number of colleges must go down, too.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to bob sykes. | September 3, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Up to a point. There’s another article here at LI about a Colorado college dropping standardized testing in order to offer “diversity”. They will find seat-fillers no matter what.

    Closely related: On other sites, I’ve seen comments from those who do hiring, and they keep lists of colleges and universities where, if one shows up on a résumé, it gets set aside.

    paracelsus in reply to bob sykes. | September 4, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    The Army depends on them too; I’m more concerned about the effect on the Army

    kat100 in reply to bob sykes. | September 4, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    That’s another reason why the left is pushing for more immigration. Gotta keep up the Academic Welfare State.

As George Mason University economics professor, Bryan Caplan pointed out, a college education is a waste of money for a majority of students.

As a person who will be directly affected by this I must say:

1. Cost is absurd

2. The ignorance of supply and demand from Dems that kept and continue to keep repeating the mantra that “everyone should get a college degree” is mind-boggling.

We just started a debt free scholarship award through our church. Going to college debt free near our zip code? We’ll put wind in your sails.

    IneedAhaircut in reply to Andy. | September 3, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    While the effort to help students is admirable, having someone else pay the bill doesn’t resolve the essential issue – the cost of college education is widely excessive. The true cost structure must change – both on the tuition paid side and the state and federal subsidy side.

      We don’t pay it all. We just kick in. The criteria is not just “no student loan debt” it’s NO DEBT. No car loan, no credit cards, no store credit and none of the parent plus loan garbage either. Nothing but cash or other scholarships/grants. The feeder for the scholarship is the Church’s FPU curriculum.

      These are tomorrow’s millionaires.

        RandomCrank in reply to Andy. | September 4, 2019 at 3:05 pm

        I graduated owing $2,000 to my parents for tuition they paid in excess of our deal. Paid it off over a few years. Other than that, no debt.

        You want to know what amazes me? College kids with credit cards. When I got my first job, I acquired a Sears charge card at my father’s urging. Buy a few things and pay it off right away, to build your credit history.

        I didn’t have an actual credit card until I was 28 years old. To this day, I remember the three months where I had a balance: for a $3,000 computer that I bought after getting a new job at a much higher salary.

        Paid it off in three months — of looking in the mirror and saying out loud: “Idiot!” I have never run a credit card balance since, and paid off two 30-year mortgages within a decade. Started by going to biweekly rather than monthly payments, which reduced the amortization length by one-third, and then put bonuses into more principal payments.

        And yes, I’m a millionaire, more than once over.

        RandomCrank in reply to Andy. | September 4, 2019 at 3:10 pm

        Oh wait. I took out a loan to buy my first new vehicle. Paid it off in 4 years. And when I was renting, I never paid more than 20% of my gross for rent, even when it meant living in a roach-infested, three-story walkup.

        When I had mortgages, same deal. I could’ve afforded more expensive houses, but I hated paying interest. The real knee-slapper to me was when this or that person would talk about the tax deduction. “You’re still paying the interest. Don’t b.s. yourself about that one, ever.”

        Tell those kids this: The secret to making it is to live below your means

        RandomCrank in reply to Andy. | September 4, 2019 at 3:18 pm

        The Five Horsemen of the Financial Apocalypse

        Trophy houses
        Trophy spouses
        New cars
        Credit card balances

JusticeDelivered | September 3, 2019 at 1:37 pm

It sounds like Oberlin is in more trouble than they realized.

    You mean like this email I just got?

    The only way to get rid of this nonsense is to stop subsidizing it, and my guess is that more and more alumni are starting to take that position. They have reached the point where “delusional” seems inadequate in describing their thinking.

    Liberal arts institutions are facing manifold challenges exacerbated by the uncertain times in which we live. Oberlin College & Conservatory launched an extraordinary project last year of institutional self-examination and strategic reimagining designed to build a new level of educational and operational excellence for Oberlin’s third century.

    President Carmen Twillie Ambar will travel across the country this year to talk and engage with alumni, parents, and friends about all things Oberlin. The president will be accompanied by faculty members from the AAPR (Academic & Administrative Program Review) Steering Committee so you can hear about the unprecedented work that created One Oberlin. The resulting report chronicles the work of the Steering Committee and offers a wealth of data about Oberlin. It lays out 10 major recommendations for the college and conservatory that better align our resources to our mission and champion our investments to ensure that Oberlin thrives for years to come. With both the faculty and Board of Trustees’ approval last year, the One Oberlin implementation has now begun.

    This is an important time for Oberlin, and the One Oberlin report makes clear the challenges and tremendous opportunities that lie ahead. President Ambar and our faculty members look forward to seeing you and answering your questions about Oberlin’s future.

    Please save the date for an event near you. An invitation with more details and RSVP instructions will follow soon!

    SEP 18, 2019 – BOSTON, MA
    OCT 14, 2019 – PHILADELPHIA, PA
    OCT 16, 2019 – NEW YORK CITY, NY
    OCT 17, 2019 – WASHINGTON, D.C.
    OCT 22, 2019 – LOS ANGELES, CA
    OCT 23, 2019 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
    OCT 24, 2019 – PORTLAND, OR
    OCT 25, 2019 – SEATTLE, WA
    OCT 29, 2019 – COLUMBUS, OH
    OCT 30, 2019 – CLEVELAND, OH
    NOV 13, 2019 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN
    NOV 14, 2019 – CHICAGO, IL
    JAN 23, 2020 – ATLANTA, GA
    FEB 10, 2020 – SANTA FE, NM
    FEB 11, 2020 – DENVER, CO
    FEB 12, 2020 – AUSTIN, TX
    FEB 13, 2020 – HOUSTON, TX
    MAR 12, 2020 – ANN ARBOR, MI

    For questions, please contact the Office of Donor Relations at (440) 775-6785 or [email protected]

When my son was born in 1990, we started saving for his education. My parents and my wife’s parents both paid for our (undergrad) college, so we planned to continue that tradition. We ran out of his saved up money by his junior year. He graduated in 2012 with a degree in mechanical engineering and a few years later earned his masters in aerospace engineering. Total cost–over $400,000.
That clearly is not sustainable. I have no idea how some of the young people who work for me could even hope to follow the same path. There has to be a reckoning.

And as usual, liberals are doing exactly the wrong thing to survive: turning their respective colleges into ob and profession mills. STEM plus accounting, economics, business, business, law enforcement etc.

A reckoning FAR overdue. Colleges have been propped up by the federal government for FAR too long, when they waste ludicrous amounts of money on things NOBODY needs.

Notice how the Student Debt Crisis is never framed at ‘Students Charged Too Much for Questionable Education”.

The “Market” is unforgiving.

Oberlin should pay the Gibsons, and then they can disappear.

The two biggest losers could be private liberal arts colleges and so-called Catholic colleges and universities that are no more Catholic than State U.

Since 1978 college costs have grown at a faster rate than medical costs:

You have to ask why. During the baby boom colleges had to construct more dorms and classroom facilities, But, by 1978 they most colleges had enough infrastructure. Much of the problem is instructors who teach about 12 hours a week. Another is the constant increase in administrators.

    Unknown3rdParty in reply to bw222. | September 4, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Moreover, college costs have outpaced general inflation, and college administrators salaries have risen even faster. It’s not a profession, it’s a scam.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Unknown3rdParty. | September 4, 2019 at 4:10 pm

      There was a study released not too long ago.

      I believe it was for public ed (K-12) and it found in the past 35 years plus, every penny of increased funding to education had ended up in administration costs.

Unknown3rdParty | September 4, 2019 at 8:35 am

Good riddance. You won’t be missed.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the prospect of thousands of SJW liberal arts professors soon becoming Uber drivers, Walmart greeters, and McDonald’s assistant managers.

    RandomCrank in reply to MarkJ. | September 4, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    I have a niece whose parents paid $28K/year to send her to the New School in NYC. She trims marijuana for a living now. Needless to say, it’s a sore subject.

my w.t.h. moment regarding the insanity of modern higher education wasn’t my alma mater’s “woke” ditching of the imperialist, racist lord jeff mascot, or the president using her pulpit to forward antitrump screeds to alumni, or officially sanctioned censorship of free speech. it was seeing the michelin three star dining hall menu: i’m being dunned to feed students way better than what graces my table.

Most college education can no longer make either the economic argument (i.e. come to college, you’ll make more money) or the social argument (come to college and you’ll learn how to live in a pluralistic society). What they offer are meaningless degrees and an inability to interact with people of varying perspectives.

Therefore, when the question is asked by a high school senior ‘why go to college’ there is no substantive reason to go for anything other than the STEM courses.

One result, now colleges have begun to pretend that Women’s Studies are now a science.