How can a college survive when the students stop coming? That’s the question facing a number of mid-level private schools in the US, which are facing enrollment declines unlike any they have seen in recent years. For the past few decades, enrollment at most private colleges has generally risen or remained flat, but as the WSJ reports, over 25 percent of private schools have seen double-digit enrollment drops over the past three years, causing some to wonder whether the higher-ed landscape will weather the storm intact. Many schools are considering closing, downsizing, or even merging with other institutions:
“I think it’s fair to say 30% of these private schools won’t exist in a decade,” said Jonathan Henry, vice president for enrollment at Husson University, a private school in Bangor, Maine, whose 2013 first-year enrollment was 17% lower than in 2009. “A lot of these schools will have to learn to live with less.” Husson has built graduate programs to offset the declines, he said.
And these problems don’t appear likely to go away any time soon:
But more-worrisome long-term trends are buffeting these schools, including a national decline in the number of graduating high-school seniors, a swarm of technologies driving down costs and profit margins, rising student debt, a soft job market for college graduates and stagnant household incomes. Meanwhile, college costs have climbed at more than triple the inflation rate.
Winter isn’t coming: for many colleges, it is already here.[Library image courtesy of Shutterstock]