It becomes more apparent by the day that some schools may not survive this crisis.

John Warner writes at Inside Higher Ed:

Public Higher Ed Is Going to Need a Bailout

Right now, by necessity, higher education institutions have been focused on short-term continuity as they deal with the sudden disruption of a global pandemic.

But soon, real soon, as in, like, right now, I believe they need to move to prepare for operating in a world where we may have to practice some form of social distancing for the next 12 to 18 months, the earliest period at which we can expect wide distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. While experts expect the prevalence of disease to decline over the coming months, until there is a vaccine, it will periodically resurge, requiring (at least localized) periods of social distancing.

A huge proportion of higher ed institutions are tuition dependent, and even a slight shortfall in enrollment requires deep cuts. A sudden collapse in enrollment and tuition revenue is an existential threat.

For example, over a three-year period ending in 2015, the College of Charleston saw its number of out-of-state students decrease by 400 students. This decline resulted in a $2.1 million budget shortfall that led to immediate midyear cuts as well as cuts in subsequent years. This resulted in “hard choices” that had the potential to “inhibit the college’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

This was all a shortfall of one-half of 1 percent of the total budget. We are facing something much worse.

How many institutions could operate if their out-of-state cohort is reduced by 10 percent? How many could handle an overall enrollment decline of 20 percent?


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