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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