Cazenovia College is closing at the end of the spring semester. According to Inside Higher Ed, the college missed a bond payment due to financial stresses exacerbated by inflation and the COVID pandemic.
Cazenovia College is a liberal arts college located in the town of Cazenovia in upstate New York. It has about 800 students. The school was founded as a Methodist seminary almost 100 years ago.
Over the years, Cazenovia has gone through several metamorphoses and name changes. From 1904 until 1931, Cazenovia functioned as both a seminary and a secondary school. The Methodists withdrew church sponsorship in the 1940s, and the school transitioned into a junior college. In the 1980s, the school became a four-year college and began offering graduate programs in 2019.
In short, this plucky little college has done its best to remain relevant and to change with the times. Ultimately, however, Cazenovia couldn't make a go of it.
Cazenovia is primarily a liberal arts school. For example, the college has majors in Liberal Studies and Individual Studies. What kind of job will a Cazenovia graduate get with a degree in those fields?
Like many obscure liberal arts schools around the United States, Cazenvovia's attendance costs can't be justified. Tuition for this academic year is more than $36,000. Room and board are another $15,000. Who in their right mind would pay $50,000 a year to attend this tiny college with a 6-year graduation rate of only 59 percent?
But maybe the costs aren't that high. The U.S. News & World Report points out that Cazenovia's sticker price is below the national average. According to that source, the net price for federal loan recipients is only about $19,000.
That's still high. When room, board, and living expenses are added, the total cost to attend Cazenovia for federal loan recipients is around $34,000 per academic year--34 grand to attend a college with only 800 students.
Across the United States, there are hundreds of obscure, expensive colleges struggling to survive. How have they held on for as long as they have?
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office offers some clues. According to the GAO report, many schools are making financial aid offers to prospective students that misrepresent the actual costs. Specifically, GAO found that 41 percent of colleges in its study did not include the net price of attendance. And half the schools reported a net price that did not include key costs.
For example, many schools include student loans and even Parent PLUS loans as "student aid," thus blurring the line between grants and loans. Unsophisticated families may not realize that the supposedly generous financial aid offer they received from an expensive private school might require them to take on burdensome levels of debt.
I'm not saying Cazenovia misrepresented the actual cost of attendance. Its financial aid offers may have been perfectly candid and totally in keeping with best practices.
If so, it is in the minority. The GAO "estimate[d] most colleges do not provide students all of the information necessary in their financial aid offers to know how much they will need to pay for college."