Experts say that the Americans most at risk of dying from the coronavirus are elderly people with serious underlying health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
Something similar might be said about America's colleges. The schools most at risk of closing due to the COVID pandemic are small, private liberal-arts colleges that had severe financial problems even before the coronavirus forced most of them to close their campuses last spring. These are the little schools that were struggling with budget deficits and declining enrollments.
Common Application, an organization that processes a standard application form primarily for liberal arts schools, confirms this view. So far this year, Common App received 8 percent fewer enrollment applications from first-year students than at the same time last year (as reported by Inside Higher Ed).
But some colleges suffered steeper declines than others. Colleges and universities in the Northeast and the Midwest, where the small liberal arts colleges are concentrated, suffered a 14 percent drop in applications.
And small colleges lost more ground than big ones. First-year college applications were down the most among schools with fewer than one thousand students. They also are seeing a 14 percent decline.
If next year's entering class drops by a corresponding rate, then a small college of 1000 students will enroll only 860 students, which would be an existential catastrophe.
But enrollments probably won't drop that much. Why? Because many colleges are lowering their standards to attract less qualified students---students who might have been rejected a few years ago.
Presently, a majority of colleges and universities do not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. They say they took this measure to offer more enrollment opportunities to first-generation and minority students.
But I think they are lying. I think the colleges are abandoning standardized test scores to attract students who don't do well on those tests. By doing away with the ACT and SAT, the colleges can obscure that they are scraping the bottom of the academic barrel to get enough tuition-paying students to pay the light bill.
Also, by giving applicants the option of not submitting a standardized test score, only people with good scores will provide them. And this will cause the colleges' average test scores to go up--making them look better in the US News and World Report rankings.
In a way, American colleges in the age of COVID are like the German Wehrmacht during World War II. When the war began, Germany had plenty of healthy, young Aryan soldiers with blue eyes and blond hair--men who just couldn't wait to get their legs blown off in the service of the Thousand Year Reich.
But as the war wore on, millions of those ideal soldiers were killed in North Africa, the Western Front, or Russia. The Soviets captured about three million Germans soldiers (mostly men but some women) and allowed them to starve to death.
By the time the Russians got to the suburbs of Berlin in 1945, most of those poster-perfect German soldiers were gone, and the Gestapo was rounding up young boys and old men to man the barricades.
Likewise, many small liberal arts colleges are willing to enroll just about anyone who can pay their tuition bill--whether or not the applicants are qualified under the admissions standards of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, many of these unqualified students are taking out student loans that they will never pay off.
In my view, many of these struggling little colleges should close their doors rather than stagger on for a few more years by signing up students who take out student loans for an educational experience that will do them very little good.
|Hey little guy, how would you like to get a bachelor's degree in gender studies?|