Two closures, a merger, and a queen sacrifice: one week in American higher ed

On Sunday I wrote about another American university preparing a queen sacrifice.  Since then – i.e., in just two days – more stories of institutional decline and stress have crossed my transom.

ITEM: the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point‘s provost “is looking at cutting academic majors and laying off faculty”, according to local public radio.

What’s the cause of this?  My readers already know one familiar answer: enrollment.

The school is projecting a $2.5 million deficit in 2019 and a $2 million deficit in 2020 because of declining enrollment…

Over the past several years, enrollment has declined as UW-Stevens Point has graduated seniors faster than it can enroll freshmen. One reason may be because fewer high school graduates are entering the market for higher education.

The other reason has to do with an especially strong form of state divestment in public higher education: “According to numbers supplied by the university, the school has been hit with more than $9.6 million in net state budget cuts since the 2011-12 school year.”

ITEM: two small Boston-area colleges are planning on merging.  Mount Ida College and Lasell College are talking this up to realize efficiencies – i.e., to save costs by cutting staff.

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  “The schools said the major savings will be from pooling resources and eliminating redundancies.”

ITEM: two small colleges announced that they would close.

Supporters of Concordia College in Alabama, meanwhile, received news that struck many of them as tragic. The college, the only Lutheran historically black college, will shut down. That was the second closure in a week, coming days after a similar announcement from Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts.

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Both Concordia Alabama and Atlantic Union are in a category of college — very small, religiously affiliated institutions — that many experts say are especially vulnerable these days.

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Small institutions, poor campuses, lower ranked schools – these aren’t the academic entities that easily win media attention, but many are suffering.  Is this something we acknowledge within academia?  Is the nation as a whole aware of this process?

Almost five years ago I first wrote about peak higher education.  This is one forecast I really wish weren’t coming to pass.

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(thanks to Trent Hergenrader and Scott Robison)

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One Response to Two closures, a merger, and a queen sacrifice: one week in American higher ed

  1. Jim Parker says:

    I wonder how much of a factor policies like free community college in some places are adding to the closures and reductions? I haven’t seen a good analysis.

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