Showing posts with label small college closures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label small college closures. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, has 444 students. Roughly ten percent tested positive for COVID-19. Think about it

 When I was four years old, my father told me the most harrowing story of my childhood--perhaps the most harrowing story of my life.
In the spring of 1942, my father was an Army Air Corps fighter pilot stationed in the Philippines. He was captured by the Japanese when the American Army surrendered after the Battle of Bataan.
The Japanese imprisoned the Americans in Manilla but later transported them by ship to Japan. The vessels weren't marked as prison ships, and American Navy dive bombers spotted them steaming out of Manilla harbor. The Americans bombed the ships, and the Japanese locked down the hatches so that the prisoners would drown below deck if the ship were sunk.
American planes sunk at least one ship, killing all the American prisoners. My father's vessel was more fortunate. An American bomb blew a hole in its side, and the prisoners scrambled up on deck. My father started swimming and was recaptured by the Japanese, who were retrieving prisoners in small boats.
But, my father told me, some American prisoners could not swim. They stood on the deck of the sinking ship, crying and begging their comrades to save them.
"Did you help them," I asked? My father said no. He said he knew he could only save himself.
Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, has about 440 students, and roughly 10 percent have tested positive for COVID-19. Those students are being quarantined, but life must go on. Bethel is not closing.
What does it cost to attend Bethel College? About $43,000 a year, including room, board, tuition, and fees.  Most students pay less because they get some form of financial aid. But even with financial aid, students will pay about $25,000 a year to study at Bethel.
Does that make sense to you? Does it make sense to take out student loans to attend Bethel College during a pandemic? It doesn't make sense to me.
A lot of small, private liberal-arts colleges are going to close within the next couple of years. You do not want to get a degree from a college that will be extinct before you pay off your student loans.
These ships are going down, and you don't want to go down with them. Take a lesson from my father-- save yourself.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Goodbye to all that: The coronavirus will sink many small colleges

Three presidents of elite colleges--Harvard, M.I.T., and Stanford--published an op-ed essay in the New York Times a few days ago, justifying their decisions to close their campuses. To increase social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, the three university presidents wrote, they were forced to take drastic action:
That meant turning university life upside down: suddenly sending virtually all of our undergraduates home; asking faculty to swiftly bring all instruction online; canceling academic, athletic, artistic and cultural events, and virtually all in-person meetings; shutting our libraries; and asking everyone who could work remotely to do so right away.
The elite presidents basically did what most college presidents did over the past couple of weeks; they shut down their campuses. Of course, this was a severe inconvenience; but Harvard, Stanford, and M.I.T. will weather this disruption.  All three have enormous endowments, wealthy donors, and millions of dollars in federal research grants. When the coronavirus crisis is over, life for them will quickly return to normal.

But a lot of small colleges were teetering on the brink of closure even before the coronavirus pandemic began. As Scott Carlson recently reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, six out of ten colleges failed to meet their enrollment goals last fall, and two-thirds of the colleges were unable to achieve their revenue goals.

This crisis will push many small colleges over the edge. According to Education Drive, which keeps track of college closings, 95 nonprofit colleges have merged or closed since 2016. This trend will surely accelerate. I think at least 100 small colleges will close within the next two years.

Many small colleges will suffer death from a thousand cuts. To begin with, the demographics for higher education are not good. The number of people in the traditional college-going age has shrunk, and college enrollments have suffered. Colleges have experienced enrollment declines for eight consecutive years.

These declines were not distributed evenly across the higher education community. By and large, the public flagship universities have continued to grow at the expense of small private colleges and regional public institutions.

Colleges have tried various tactics to grow their enrollments. Several years ago, the small, private colleges began discounting their tuition rates to lure students through the doors. The average discount for first-year students at small private colleges is now about 50 percent. But for many colleges, this tactic did not allow them to balance their budgets.

 In addition, a lot of colleges recruited international students to juice their enrollments and their revenues.  Most international students pay the full freight, compared to Amerian students who often receive grants, scholarships, or discounts. But foreign-student enrollment has declined substantially in recent years, and the federal ban on international travel will likely accelerate this trend.

Spring is recruiting season for both public and private colleges, the time when college recruiters strive desperately to sign up enough students to have a healthy sized freshman class. But these recruiting drives are being canceled due to the pandemic, and many colleges will have fewer first-year students as a result.

The coronavirus pandemic itself has a financial cost, and this cost will hit small colleges hard. Colleges that close their dormitories will be forced to pay out refunds to students who live in campus housing. Some schools may not have the liquidity to make these payouts.

Although circumstances will vary, the virus will force many colleges to pay employees to work less productively from home or cease work altogether. Sanitizing college buildings, athletic facilities, and residence halls will be costly. College professors are being ordered to teach their face-to-face classes online, and many professors do not have online teaching skills. Retooling professors to teach their courses in a new way is an unanticipated expense.

Kent Chabotar, a nationally recognized higher-education expert, summarized the pandemic's impact this way: "We've run into a crisis, and our flexibility is shot because we've already given away the store" [with high tuition-discount rates and other desperate measures].

In short, the coronavirus pandemic is an existential crisis for America's small colleges. When the crisis is over, a significant number of them will be closed.

This is my advice. If you are a young person thinking about attending a small, private college with high tuition, you might think again. Enrolling at a state university might make more sense because a public university is less likely to close than a small, private school.

If you are a college professor employed by a struggling, small nonprofit college, it is probably time to develop your Plan B. Think about what you will do if you are laid off, or your college closes.

For everyone who works or studies at a small, private college, it is time to face facts. The future is not bright at the nation's little colleges and universities, whether they are public or private. If you link your future to one of these struggling institutions, you may go down with the ship.






Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What happens to tenured faculty when a college shuts down?: Reflections on the closure of Marlboro College

Small liberal arts colleges are in trouble all over the United States, but the problem is most acute in New England and the Northeast. Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed reported that 10 colleges are closing this year, and four of them are located in Vermont.

Small colleges with religious affiliations are also under strong pressure.  Among the 10 colleges that will close this year, five have religious ties. College of New Rochelle, Marygrove College, St. Joseph School of Nursing, and the College of St. Joseph are all Catholic institutions. Cincinnati Christian University, which will close next month, has Protestant ties.

Marlboro College, a tiny school with only 150 students, is one of the Vermont institutions that is closing this year. Marlboro transferred its $30 million endowment fund and $10 million worth of real estate to Emerson College, a Boston institution with about 4,500 students. In return, Emerson has agreed to accept Marlboro's students and all 27 of its tenured and tenure-track faculty.

As Lee Pelton, Emerson's president made clear, the transaction is not a merger. After next fall, Pelton said, "Marlboro will not exist."

Marlboro president, Kevin F. F. Quigley, said that Marlboro had "reached out" to a number of colleges before it did its deal with Emerson, but the other schools were not willing to employ Marlboro's faculty.

I took a quick look at Marlboro's faculty bios, and I was impressed. Many of the Marlboro professors are young and most have doctorates from prestigious institutions.

I was also impressed that Marlboro executed a plan that will allow the school to close with dignity while preserving the jobs of its tenured and tenure-track faculty. In essence, Marlboro turned over assets worth $40 million to a college that is willing to employ its professors.

In my view, Marlboro's closure is a model for other struggling liberal arts colleges. Most of them have declining enrollments and dwindling revenues. But many--like Marlboro--have significant endowment funds and own valuable real estate. What should a college do with those assets when it shuts down?

I can think of no better way for a dying college to divest itself of its material wealth than to devote it to the welfare of its tenured and tenure-track professors, many of whom have devoted a substantial part of their working lives to an institution that closes while they are in mid-career.

In this economic climate, even highly acclaimed tenured faculty members will have trouble finding comparable tenured positions if their college shuts down. Marlboro and Emerson performed a civic act when they worked out a deal to save 27 jobs and put Marlboro's real estate and endowment funds to good use.


Marlboro College
















Sunday, August 26, 2018

A quarter trillion dollars in student aid last year: And what do we have to show for it?

The Chronicle of Higher Education released its annual Almanac edition this month, stuffed full of information that professors care most about: how much money people are making in the higher-education racket.

College presidents are making out like bandits. In 2015, Fifty presidents of private colleges received at least a million dollars in total compensation. Nathan Hatch at Wake Forest was the highest paid university CEO. He made $4 million in 2015--more than twice as much as the president of Yale.

The Chronicle also documented what we already knew--the cost of going to college is in the stratosphere.  At 100 private universities, it costs a quarter of a million dollars to get an undergraduate degree (tuition, room and board). And those costs are probably underestimated. According to the Chronicle, room and board at Yale costs $15,500. But does anyone believe a person can live in New Haven, Connecticut on $15,500 a year?

On the other hand, the posted sticker price for college tuition is inflated. As the Chronicle reported, colleges are discounting freshman tuition by 50 percent. Thus, a private college that charges $36,000 a year for tuition is actually collecting only about $18,000 due to grants, scholarships and various discounts.

Who gets those tuition discounts and who pays the sticker price? Colleges give grants and aid to athletes, minority students, and applicants with good academic credentials. Only the least attractive applicants pay full price.

The Chronicle's Almanac also contains some useful information about colleges that are in financial trouble.  The U.S. Department of Education gives financial responsibility ratings to American colleges. Institutions that rate 1.0 and above are considered financially responsible; college ranking below that are considered not financially responsible.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the schools with low ratings are private colleges with religious affiliations.  Northeast Catholic College, for example, received a negative 0.4 rating, and Boston Baptist College drew a 0.8.

These scores are just another sign that the small, non-prestigious, private colleges are in big trouble, particularly schools tied to religious denominations. I wish all these little schools well, but parents are crazy if they allow their children to take out student loans to attend a small private college no one has heard of.  There is a good chance these schools will have shut down before their graduates pay off their loans.

Finally, the Chronicle reported almost a quarter of a trillion dollars  was distributed in governmental and institutional student aid during 2016-2017, including $153 billion in federal aid (loans, grants and Work-Study). That's a lot of money invested in American higher education in just one year. Does anyone think we're getting our money's worth?

Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, made $4 million in 2015




Thursday, June 2, 2016

St. Catharine College and Dowling College are closing: "After us, the deluge."

After us, the deluge.  I care not what happens when I am dead and gone.

Marquise de Pompadour

Just this week, two small colleges announced they are closing: St. Catharine College, a Catholic institution in Kentucky; and Dowling College, a private school on Long Island.  

Clearly, a lot of small private colleges are in trouble. Last autumn, Moody's Investor Service predicted a sharp increase in the number of college closures, forecasting that 15 would close in 2017. I think Moody's is far too optimistic. By 2017, I think we will see three or four colleges shutting down every month.

What's going on? Several things.

Small colleges have priced themselves out of their markets. First, many small non-elite colleges have priced themselves out of their markets. Tuition has been rising every year for the past 20 years, and even obscure little colleges now charge students from $30,000 to $35,000 a year, just for tuition. For years, students and their parents passively submitted to yearly tuition hikes; but no more. Mom and Pop aren't willing to pay $100,000 for Suzie or Johnny to get a bachelor's degree from an undistinguished private college.

It's true that small private colleges are heavily discounting their tuition--almost 50 percent for first-time freshmen. And it is true that students can take out student loans to pay for their college tuition. But families are not sure whether they will get a tuition discount big enough to fit their budgets or whether they are getting as good a discount as another family gets. They've lost trust in the integrity of the admission process.

And young people have finally begun reading the newspapers and are waking up to the fact that student-loan debt can be a financial death sentence for graduates who don't quickly find good jobs. They have become wary about enrolling at a little college named after a saint they've never heard of. Who in the hell is Saint Scholastica  anyway?

Onerous federal regulations have raised operating costs. So price is a factor.  But there is another reason why small colleges are closing. Federal regulation have become too onerous for small schools to manage. They simply cannot afford to comply with ever more burdensome regulations that spew out of the Department of Education.  The Department's 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter on sexual harassment triggered a flurry of new college regulations, policies, and training programs to meet DOE's heightened standards for complying with Title IX. DOE's new transgender restroom rules will cost colleges money, and the rules will be a real headache for the little religious colleges that pride themselves on their traditional moral values.

Here's an example of how colleges are being subject to more and more federal regulation. Virginia Tech suffered a horrible tragedy when a deranged gunman massacred more than thirty students in 2007. The University was sued for negligence after the incident, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Virginia Tech was not liable under Virginia tort law.

But the Department of Education concluded that Virginia Tech violated the Clery Act in the way it alerted students about an ongoing threat and assessed a fine against the University. The fine wasn't large compared to Virginia Tech's overall budget, but the University spent a lot of money defending against DOE's charge, and it will spend even more trying to make sure it does not run afoul of the Clery Act again.

Virginia Tech is big enough and rich enough to deal with DOE's mandates, but hundreds of small colleges don't have the resources for dealing with the ever growing complexity of the federal regulatory environment.

St. Catharine College is a case in point. It got squeezed by DOE, which held up its federal student aid money based on some technical issue. The college sued but apparently didn't get relief. This week it announced its closure, which it said was triggered by DOE sanctions.

Small liberal arts colleges are headed for extinction and there is no way to revive them.  Small colleges have implemented all sorts of strategies to keep their enrollments up and maintain their revenues. Many have tried to reinvent themselves by hiring marketing firms to enhance their images and juice their enrollments.

By and large, this strategy has failed. Let's face it: hiring a marketing firm to design an edgy college logo or a catchy slogan is no remedy for the massive problems facing the nation's small liberal arts colleges.

I don't see any way to revive the small liberal arts college. Their tuition rates are too high, and offering heavy discounts has not lured middle class students into small-college classrooms.

Moreover, the Department of Education does not care whether it is regulating small colleges out of business. The DOE minions probably gave each other high fives when they heard St. Catherine is closing its doors.

Nor is there any way for colleges to walk away from their total dependence on federal student aid and the federal regulations that come with it. The colleges drank the Kool Aid of federal student-loan money, and their is no antidote.

If you are an administrator or a professor at a small college and you are nearing retirement, perhaps you don't care about the demise of liberal arts colleges. As Marquise de Pompadour put it: "After us the deluge.  I care not what happens when I am dead and gone." But a young person with a new Ph.D. would be a fool to try to build a career by taking a job at a small liberal arts college. 





References

Another Small Private Closes Its Doors. Inside Higher Ed, June 1, 2016. Accesible at https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/06/01/another-small-private-closes-its-doors-dowling-college?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=a0fafeb056-DNU20160601&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-a0fafeb056-198564813

Paul Fain. The Department and St. Catharine.  Inside Higher Ed, June 2, 2016. Accessible at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/06/02/small-private-college-closes-blames-education-department-sanction?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=3d1c6eed79-DNU20160602&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-3d1c6eed79-198565653

Lyndsey Layton. Virginia Tech pays fine for failure to warn campus during 2007 massacre. Washington Post, April 16, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virginia-tech-pays-fine-for-failure-to-warn-during-massacre/2014/04/16/45fe051a-c5a6-11e3-8b9a-8e0977a24aeb_story.html

Kellie Woodhouse. Closures to Triple. Inside Higher Education, September 28, 2015. Accessile at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/09/28/moodys-predicts-college-closures-triple-2017