Private colleges are in deep trouble. Enrollment is dropping, tuition revenue is flattening, and across the country, schools are having to learn to make do with less after decades of fat living. Inside Higher Ed fills in some details on the trend, detailing how a whole slew of smaller schools that have seen steep drops in enrollment are adjusting.Many are making massive cutbacks on faculty (as high as 20 percent in some cases), others are cutting whole departments and rolling back pay, a few are considering mergers, and one single-sex school is even going co-ed in a bid to increase enrollment. The schools are located all over the country, but one thing they all have in common is that they are all small private schools:
Private colleges have their own unique challenges, too: small endowments mean they depend on enrollment to bring in tuition dollars, they have smaller class sizes so can’t subsidize operations with large lectures, they traditionally have mostly tenured faculty, they are often in rural areas with shrinking populations and they are perceived as being unaffordable.
Demographics are also playing a role:
Some of these institutions are largely white and full of traditional college-age students at a time when demographers predict enrollment growth for part-time students, minority students and students from urban areas. “Historically these are not institutions that have been… visible in the minority community,” said Richard Kneedler, former president of Franklin and Marshall College. “It means when their base shrinks it’s really a challenge.” […]“Watch this space,” said President Ronald Carter, “see how predominantly white institutions will struggle if there are fewer white Americans to fill their seats. Will they fill them with international students? How many minority students can they really afford with gap funding?”
We’ve said in the past that there will be far fewer colleges in twenty years than there are today. Some of these schools might make it, but many won’t. The scythe has started swinging.