Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Community Colleges at the Heart of College Meltdown

Community college enrollment has dropped by 1.6 million students (23%) in the last six years.  Even worse, full-time enrollment at community colleges has dropped by 36% over the last 6 years. Source for Data: National Student Clearinghouse.

US college enrollment has dropped by about 2.5 million students over the last six years, but this College Meltdown has not been spread evenly.

For-profit colleges have been hardest hit in their percentage decline of students and campus closings. But community colleges, which may be the best educational value for working families, have been even harder hit in the sheer numbers who are not attending.

While the for-profit college crash has been well documented in the media, the crisis in community colleges has been under-reported.
For-profit colleges have seen a decline of about 600,000 students since their peak, but community college enrollment has declined even more, by 1.6 million.

[Image below:  Most US community colleges have seen enrollment declines. Data from National Center for Education Statistics]

The reaction to the community college downturn has ranged from punitive to progressive: reduced state and local funding, higher tuition, reduced student and family services, fewer teachers, lower educational standards--and free college tuition:
In 2003, 53% of all community colleges offered campus child care. In 2015, only 44% had it.
At the national level, the dearth of reporting on the community college downturn begs more questions:
  1. What community colleges have been hardest hit?
  2. What has happened to all the people who have decided not to go to a community college?
  3. Why do you think the enrollment crisis in US community colleges has been under-reported?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Charting the College Meltdown

This chart illustrates the mostly downward movement of the College Meltdown.  Overall, revenues to higher education institutions continue to rise, but these numbers mask the many weaknesses in the system.

What we are looking at is unsustainable. 

While elite colleges and brand name colleges will continue to thrive, many for-profit colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, community colleges, and lesser valued public and private colleges will suffer.

This trend may be disturbing for working people and their families, but it is also an opportunity for others to consolidate power and increase profits.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Creative Destruction" in Higher Ed Will Accelerate Under Trump and DeVos


  • 42% of today’s college students are living near or below the poverty line.
  • Student services have been cut substantially since the last recession.
  • Total US college debt has increased to $1.4 trillion.
  • Only about 40% of student loan debtors are paying back more than interest.  
  • US college enrollment has declined 5 consecutive years, with no reasonable expectation that the decline will slow down. 
  • State funding cuts for higher education are continuing in several states, with no new taxes and increasing burdens from Medicaid, pensions, and infrastructure repair. 
  • More than half of all college teachers are low-paid adjuncts.
  • College mergers and closings are expected to increase. 
  • Differences between for-profit and non-profit colleges continue to be blurred. 
All are signs of a long-term crisis in US higher education reinforcing even greater social inequality--what I have coined the "College Meltdown."

Every year, the picture becomes clearer that the College Meltdown is worsening. But vested interests refuse to acknowledge the situation or they claim that the problems are just the first step toward a better, corporate-based solution.

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos promise to accelerate the College Meltdown.
Political conservatives like Richard Vedder have long believed that government funding has artificially inflated college costs, making higher education an increasingly risky proposition. Vedder and others also argue that the College Meltdown is not occurring fast enough, and that unfettered market forces would allow for greater consolidation and "creative destruction."

Trump's long range plans could put these ideas into practice. Already, DeVos has hired people who have worked for the for-profit college industry. And it's not inconceivable that the US could get out of the student loan business, handing the reins back to the banks.

Other conservatives will profit, or at least hedge their bets, from the meltdown. The Koch Brothers, for example, are spending money to shape social policy at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

Do you believe that less government oversight and more creative destruction in higher education will make things better? Should banks be in control of student loans with limited oversight?