Inside Higher Education carried a story today about major cuts being made at three higher education institutions. Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, is laying off 225 faculty and staff members. The University of Evansville, a Methodist college, is eliminating 17 majors and three departments. The College of Saint. Rose, a Catholic school, is cutting 16 majors and six master's degrees.
These three colleges are not alone. All over the United States, small, private colleges are suffering from declining enrollments and declining revenues. Many of them will close over the next couple of years.
The colleges blame demographic trends. There are simply fewer traditional college-age people in the American population. Consequently, fewer students are going to college.
The coronavirus pandemic didn't help matters. The COVID outbreak caused a lot of young people to postpone their college plans. And it imposed high costs on institutions that were left with empty dorm rooms this fall.
An overall decline in religion has sapped the vitality of schools that were founded by various churches. The University of Evansville, for example, is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, but how many young people choose a college because it has ties with a religious denomination?
The small private schools have been fighting desperately to reverse their enrollment crops. They've rolled out new programs, spiffed up their study-abroad offerings, hired public relations firms, and slashed tuition. But for many--these survival strategies won't be enough.
If you are a young person in the process of deciding where to go to college, here is my advice. Do not go to a small, private school with enrollment below 1,000 students. The smaller colleges are the most vulnerable.
You do not want to enroll at a college that closes before you obtain your degree or shortly after graduating. You don't want to take out student loans to pay tuition at a school that is slashing programs and laying off faculty. You certainly don't want your parents to take out a Parent Plus Loan so you can study at some obscure little school in the Midwest that won't prepare you for a good job.
In short, private liberal arts education is on the verge of collapse. Don't get trapped under the falling rubble.