Here’s one possible way for colleges and universities to survive the current crisis. We could deem higher education too big to fail.
Background: the linked article refers to the recent brush with institutional death experienced by the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). Its accreditor had repeatedly found CCSF to be deeply flawed on financial and administrative levels, and ultimately recommended the college be stripped of accredited status. The evaluating body still thinks CCSF should lose it, but granted the large school a two-year grace period.
Kevin Carey thinks this outcome is like the one enjoyed by the largest American financial institutions after the 2008 crisis*. The banking sector was too well connected and simply too deeply embedded in the global economy, and its destruction would have been too damaging to the world and to well-represented sectors. Applying this analogy to that college,
The political backlash was fierce. The faculty union lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Education against the accreditor… Politicians including the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes part of City College, issued public condemnations…
Because the consequences of closing these institutions are so severe, they have become, in effect, “too big to fail.”
Perhaps this is one near- and medium-term future for much of American higher education. Not every institution faces this level of accreditation challenge, of course; some face equally serious threats from other sources. No matter how many queen sacrifices campuses perform, or how many bad financial ratings schools receive, or how furious families are at the specter of debt, we won’t allow colleges and universities to shut down. Continue reading