America’s colleges and universities are in crisis. According to the latest data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment is down 1.7 percent compared with 2018, following a drop of 1.8 percent the previous year. If you contrast 2019 with 2017, that’s more than half a million fewer students.
The brunt of this decline is being felt in New England, the center of America’s higher-education sector. In eastern Massachusetts, eight colleges have either closed or merged in the past four years, while in Vermont three colleges have gone to the wall in 2019 alone. Most experts think things will get a good deal worse. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, predicts that up to 50 percent of the country’s colleges and universities will go bankrupt in the next 10 to 15 years.
The causes are multifactorial, as you’d expect. There are fewer 18-year-olds than there were a decade ago, thanks to declining birth rates. The cost of attending college has increased by nearly 400 percent in the past 30 years, while median household incomes have remained largely stagnant. The boost in earnings associated with a university degree — the ‘college premium’ — is declining. And the number of higher-ed institutions has grown too quickly.
An additional factor is surely the climate of Maoist intolerance that now prevails at most colleges and universities. I’m not just talking about ‘safe spaces’, ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘bias reporting hotlines’, all now standard features of American campus life, but the punishment beatings regularly meted out to anyone who dissents from progressive orthodoxy. Scarcely a month passes without some distinguished professor being targeted for defenestration by a left-wing outrage mob, often led by their Marxist colleagues. (To read more, click here.)