- The New York Times profiles the growing complexities of the higher education industry, which despite years of downward enrollment trends and shrinking resources from state and federal government, now faces mounting questions about its relevance and future existence. The feature examines the bipartisan loss of confidence in higher education, but for differing reasons. Among conservatives, higher ed is considered second only to the news media in terms of having a negative impact on society, while liberals say that college costs are too high and create barriers to access for potential students.
- Edinboro College, in particular, is highlighted for its dramatic change in student profile (more adult learner-oriented) and challenges in maintaining costs to keep faculty paid and operations stable. The college is trimming several of its liberal arts programs in favor of degrees in health science and business administration, while investing more in its career center to better cater to its population.
- Northeastern University is an exception to this new culture facing many institutions. It uses a cooperative learning and workforce training program to send 90% of program participants into paying jobs after graduation, by allowing students multiple semester-long internship experiences over the course of their careers. University President Joseph Aoun told the Times the strategy is to make students "robot-proof," or less likely to have their jobs taken by the wave of automation. “I haven’t seen a computer that weeps," he told the New York Times.
Geography plays a major role in the fate of some colleges and universities, save for some in the south which are entrenched as cultural and academic institutions, as well as major economic engines for communities. In Pennsylvania, the proliferation of Penn State University satellite campuses has only sped up the decline of system schools, which has been caused by budget cuts and population loss.
Seemingly, states are picking sides and investing heavily in the one or two campuses that are well-branded enough, research-intensive enough and self-sufficient enough to replace smaller institutions through expansion. The University of Massachusetts System is a recent example of this institutional self-cannibalization, in order to make flagship and strong campuses stronger in lean financial times with waning student enrollment.
There is no question that small, liberal arts schools are in the cross hairs of larger institutions with aggressive goals of building endowment, commanding resources and enrolling students. And unless they can find a way to convert classic liberal arts training to credentials and workforce training which will help students to land jobs and to manage student loan debt after graduation, their time for survival is diminishing by the day.