As American colleges and universities work to fill up their fall classes, some are struggling to cope with low enrollment and financial pain. Once more, our higher ed sector continues to be unhealthy. Once again, the queen sacrifice is on the table.
ITEM: more than one half of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education‘s public universities are considering cutting programs and faculty. We know about this because the faculty union has publicly warned its members of this administrative intention. (The specific term isn’t layoff but “retrenchment”.)
ITEM: the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system is considering massive administrative consolidation, along with combining a dozen community colleges into a single entity.
Two different states, private and public campuses – what do they have in common? My readers already know the answer: enrollment and financial pressures, driven in part by demographics.
It’s all very open and public. Listen to the Catholic merger story:
“I think, quite honestly, what you’re seeing is something that is probably going to transpire throughout higher education in the coming years,” [Michael Gargano, president of St. Vincent’s College] said. “A lot of times with these small, niche institutions, they just don’t have the financial wherewithal to support all aspects of the operation.”
Or let Rick Seltzer tell it, right in the first sentence of his article:
The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system is tumbling down an enrollment and funding cliff, landing it back in line for cuts and consolidations.
Please notice that all of these stories take place in the American northeast, where demographics are aging fast and the K-12 population is dropping. I’ve been talking about this for years as a powerful future trend. I fear the impact is only just starting to be felt.
These stories might not get a lot of discussion. They don’t involve the wealthiest universities, which usually draw the lion’s share of attention. They include community colleges, less well ranked public institutions, and Catholic schools. They are vital nonetheless, and impact human lives. They are worthy of our attention.
What do their fates tell us about the rest of American higher education?