Zero Hedge posted an article
yesterday by Maria Copeland
on the precarious condition of America's second-tier colleges. Copeland quoted NYU professor Scott Galloway's dire prediction:
What department stores were to retail, tier-two higher tuition universities are about to become to [higher] education and that is they are soon going to become the walking dead.
Galloway predicts that "hundred, if not thousands" of non-elite college will close within the next five to ten years.
I think Professor Galloway is right. We will soon see the mass closures of colleges and universities. Small institutions in New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the upper Midwest have already begun closing.
Why is this happening?
. First, small private colleges allowed their tuition to creep up to unreasonable levels. Until recently, students and their families absorbed these tuition increases passively because they could always pay college costs by taking out more jumbo student loans.
But the coronavirus pandemic, which forced colleges to shift to online instruction, prompted many students to question the value of their educational experience. It is one thing to pay $50,000 a year to listen to a pompous professor's lecture when the student is sitting in an ivy-covered campus building surrounded by sexually active classmates. It is quite another to hear the same lecture on a home computer.
Colleges tried to reverse declining enrollments by drastically slashing tuition costs
. Net first-year tuition at the private liberal arts colleges is now about half the sticker price. But for many small schools, tuition cuts did not attract enough new students to maintain their revenues.
Fewer international students
. It's all about the money, and private American colleges aggressively recruited Asian (mainly Chinese) students who generally paid the full cost of tuition--no discounts for these kids. But Asian enrollments have dropped off dramatically.
The colleges say that Chinese students are opting not to go to college in the U.S. because they are frightened by America's "gun culture"
and Trump's so-called xenophobic
foreign policy. But I disagree.
Asian students and their parents have figured out that American higher education is not worth what it costs. Secondary education in China and other Asian countries is generally more rigorous than U.S. high school programs. What must Chinese students think when they discover that many of their American classmates come to college without knowing the basic rules of grammar and diction?
Declining interest in the liberal arts
. The small private colleges nestled in rural New England and small Midwestern towns specialize in the liberal arts: history, philosophy, literature, etc. But young people aren't interested in getting a classical college education--especially when it will cost them a quarter-million dollars and doesn't prepare them for a job.
Second-tier colleges have tried to rebrand
themselves by offering programs that are more vocationally oriented. But they are burdened by battalions of professors who got their Ph.Ds in the humanities and are unwilling or incapable of retooling.
Most of these professorial dinosaurs are tenured, entitling them to paychecks, health insurance, and pension plans. The inability to jettison low-value faculty is bringing many private colleges down.
What does this mean to students and professors?
Second-rung colleges have been in trouble for years, but the coronavirus pandemic may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Now may be a good time for high school graduates to take a gap year
while the turmoil in higher education gets sorted out. College students should also consider transferring from expensive private schools to cheaper public universities.
Humanities professors at struggling private colleges need to formulate their Plan B. There is an excellent chance their institution will shut down within the next few years. And graduate students in the humanities need to rethink their career plans. In the coming years, the United States will need a lot more plumbers, electricians, and medical technicians and a lot fewer historians
specializing in the Ming dynasty.
|Second-tier private colleges: Are they the Walking Dead?|