I wrote here a couple weeks ago about my running theme (perhaps to be a book) about what I’m calling the “suicide of the university,” where declining enrollment and the excessive politicization of the social sciences and humanities will destroy many smaller and second-tier schools. My most recent post looked at politically-correct Earlham College, which is slowly eating its endowment to keep going, along with the data of the plummeting student interest in the increasingly inhumane “humanities” on offer at too many colleges today.
Today’s Boston Globe reported yesterday that many small colleges in New England are in dire straits and may not survive long term:
Financial conditions are deteriorating at many of New England’s quintessential small private colleges, with tuition revenue failing to keep up with expenses at more than half of the schools, a Globe review shows.
The review of federal data found a number of financial warning signs at many of the schools, which have become increasingly reliant on tuition, even as enrollment has declined.
The College of St. Joseph in Vermont, for example, relies on tuition for 90 percent of its revenue, but the tuition covers just 58 percent of the school’s annual expenses. At Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, tuition makes up 77 percent of the school’s revenue but covers just 65 percent of its expenses. At Newbury College in Brookline, enrollment has declined 24 percent over a five-year period, but it depends on tuition for 74 percent of its revenue.
These findings echo a national trend. Two reports issued recently by national credit rating agencies forecast more troubles for small schools as the gap between their revenue and expenses widens. Moody’s found in July that one in five small private colleges nationwide is under fundamental stress. It predicted more are likely to close or merge in the coming years.
I wonder how many of these institutions have jumped on the environmental “sustainability” bandwagon without noticing the irony?
And then there’s this telling but entirely predictable detail:
Many schools are restructuring their curriculum to attract students. Colby-Sawyer recently eliminated its English and philosophy majors in an attempt to shift toward majors like nursing and business that students see as more likely to guarantee them a job.
Well, this is sortof redundant, given than many English departments have essentially self-abolished already, by becoming departments of current political ideology instead of literature, so who will notice? This is all of a piece with my theme that colleges and universities will shift more deliberately toward STEM fields and other practical disciplines—essentially they will become trade schools. The ones that survive, that is.
Postscript: I’m actually en route home today from visiting Grove City College in northwestern Pennsylvania, where I attended a regional meeting of the National Association of Scholars. Grove City, like Hillsdale, doesn’t take a dime of federal money, and actually teaches something. And guess what: it is thriving, like Hillsdale with applications and enrollment increasing. I wonder if any other colleges will ever look to figure out what they’re doing right.