Showing posts with label collegemania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label collegemania. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

College Meltdown 3.0 Could Start Earlier (And End Worse) Than Planned


Chronicling the College Meltdown 

Since 2016, the Higher Education Inquirer has documented the College Meltdown as a series of demographic and business trends leading to lower enrollments and making higher education of decreasing value to working-class and middle-class folks. This despite the commonly-held belief that college is the only way to improve social mobility.  

For more than a dozen years, the College Meltdown has been most visible at for-profit colleges and community colleges, but other non-elite schools and for-profit businesses have also been affected. Some regions, states, and counties have been harder hit than others. Non-elite state universities are becoming increasingly vulnerable

Elite schools, on the other hand, do not need students for revenues, at least in the short run.  They depend more on endowments, donations, real estate, government grants, corporate grants, and other sources of income. Elite schools also have more than enough demand for their product even after receiving bad press.    

The perceived value and highly variable real value of higher education has made college less attractive to many working-class consumers and to an increasing number of middle-class consumers--who see it as a risky proposition. Degrees in the humanities and social sciences are becoming a tough sell. Even some STEM degrees may not be valuable for too long.  Public opinion about higher education and the value of higher education has been waning and many degrees, especially graduate degrees, have a negative return on investment. 

Tuition and room and board costs have skyrocketed. Online learning has become more prominent, despite persistent questions about its educational value. 

While college degrees have worked for millions of graduates, student loans have mired millions of other former students, and their families, in long-term debt, doing work in fields they aren't happy with

Elite degrees for people in the upper class still make sense though, as status symbols and social sorters. And there are some professions that require degrees for inclusion. But those degrees and the lucrative jobs accompanying them disproportionately go to foreigners and immigrants, and their children--a demographic wave that may draw the ire of folks who have lived in the US for generations and who may have not enjoyed the same opportunities.  

Starting Sooner and Ending Worse

The latest phase of the College Meltdown was supposed to result from a declining number of high school graduates in 2025, something Nathan Grawe projected from lower birth rates following the 2008-2009 recession.

But problems with the federal government's financial aid system may mean that a significant decline in enrollment at non-elite schools starts this fall instead of 2025.  

The College Meltdown may become even worse than planned, in terms of lower enrollment and declining revenues to non-elite schools. Enrollment numbers most assuredly will be worse than Department of Education projections of slow growth until 2030

In 2023, we wrote about something few others reported on: that community colleges and state universities would feel more financial pressure from by the flip-side of the Baby Boom: the enormous costs of taking care of the elderly which could drain public coffers that subsidize higher education. This was a phenomenon that should also have been anticipated by higher education policy makers, but is still rarely discussed. Suzanne Mettler graphed this out in Degrees of Inequality a decade ago--and the Government Accountability Office noted the huge projected costs in 2002

Related links: 

Starting my new book project: Peak Higher Education (Bryan Alexander)

Long-Term Care:Aging Baby Boom Generation Will Increase Demand and Burden on Federal and State Budgets (Government Accountability Office, 2002)

Forecasting the College Meltdown (2016)

Charting the College Meltdown (2017)

US Department of Education Fails to Recognize College Meltdown (2017)

Community Colleges at the Heart of the College Meltdown (2017)

College Enrollment Continues Decline in Several States (2018) 

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth, 2020)

The Growth of RoboColleges and Robostudents (2021)

Even Elite Schools Have Subprime Majors (2021)

State Universities and the College Meltdown (2022) 

"20-20": Many US States Have Seen Enrollment Drops of More Than 20 Percent (2022) 

US Department of Education Projects Increasing Higher Ed Enrollment From 2024-2030. Really?(2022)

EdTech Meltdown (2023) 

Enrollment cliff? What enrollment cliff ? (2023)

Department of Education Fails (Again) to Modify Enrollment Projection (2023)