One college will close its entire undergraduate program

Marygrove College logoA Detroit campus has gone far beyond the queen sacrifice, announcing enormous cuts to its operations.  Marygrove College will end all undergraduate programs next year, leaving only its graduate school.  That means axing about one half of the institution, at least in terms of students.

Faculty and staff cuts will have to be extensive, although I can’t find out specific numbers yet: “the number of faculty at the school will be shrunk as well, the college announced.”  IHE similarly guesses: “The change will mean job losses for many of the institution’s 44 full-time faculty members, four part-time faculty members and roughly 70 staff members.”

A quiet euphemism appeared in the official announcement: “Marygrove is also assisting affected faculty and staff with their career transition.”

What are the causes of this massive cut?  My readers already know: enrollment and financial declines.  For enrollment, the official announcement explains:

In recent years, Marygrove enrollment peaked in 2013 with more than 1,850 graduate and undergraduate students. In Fall 2016, total enrollment had fallen to 966.

IHE breaks it down: “Last fall, the college enrolled just 491 undergraduates and 475 graduate students.”  Marygrove’s president adds, looking ahead: “undergraduate enrollment is projected to be lower than last fall.”

Unspoken in statements and analyses are demographics.  I’ll remind readers of Michigan’s K-12 losses, which look likely to continue:

high school grads in 2031_Hechinger after WICHE

Michigan’s the fiery red one that looks like a mitten.  One more easily shared among the dwindling population of children.

Finances: Marygrove has “a small endowment that is down to about $500,000”, which is not only useless for contributing to the operational budget, but also shows how starkly this private college depends on tuition revenue, and therefore how badly clobbered it is by plummeting enrollment.  And

[t]he college went into the 2014-15 year thinking it could balance its budget but was unable to do so, Burns said. The college cut its expense budget from roughly $25 million several years ago to $20 million last year. Nonetheless, deficits persisted, and it closed the 2017 fiscal year this summer with a deficit of nearly $4 million.

How about the students?  How will Marygrove’s end of undergrad impact them?  As usual, it comes down to transfers, according to the official statement:

The college has notified incoming and returning students of the planned Winter semester transition and will assist them to identify alternative colleges and universities that offer their program. Students who are registered for Fall will receive assistance from academic advisors and financial aid counselors to develop an individualized plan that will allow them to successfully transfer and ultimately achieve their dream of a college degree.

At least one local university is pouncing on this as an opportunity:

Here’s one way of looking at it:

Dr. Burns added, “We know of no other college in the country that has made this type of transformation, a transformation not unlike our historically bold moves to educate women when it wasn’t fashionable, to bring 68 African American students to Marygrove in 1968 with the 68 for ’68 initiative, to create one of the nation’s first Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) degrees, a distance-learning curriculum to help teachers to advance in their careers, and to commit to an urban leadership strategic vision.”

Several observations.

  1. In 2013-2014 I wrote about peak higher education.  I was referring to the possibility of enrollment shrinkage.  Every year this becomes more true.  It’s interesting to see Marygrove come close to echoing my theory in a small way, in their official language: “In recent years, Marygrove enrollment peaked in 2013…”
  2. Are Catholic institutions more vulnerable than others?  I’m wondering if incremental secularization plays a role in this sector.
  3. Once again a liberal arts institution makes cuts.  And once again professional programs – graduate school, here – are doing well.

(thanks to Tom Stroup and Ed Vielmetti)

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3 Responses to One college will close its entire undergraduate program

  1. bowneps says:

    Does any version of that diagram have a key telling what the colors mean? I didn’t see one in the original, but it might be because I was unable to scroll past the map.

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