New studies show that 80% of U.S. colleges and universities enroll 5,000 students or less, with 40% of those schools enrolling 1,000 or less.
Following a peak in enrollment in 2011, the number of college students has steadily declined over the last five years, reducing the pool of students from which schools can recruit.
- As student enrollment trends toward entry into schools within a 250-mile radius, geography plays a major role in recruiting strategy.
The Washington Post reports that three colleges have closed in the last month. Paine College yesterday received a recommendation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to have its accreditation revoked.
The message is clear: Schools with geographic challenges and limited options in degrees that sync with industrial opportunities around the college are likely to close. And given the federal government’s squeeze on for-profit and financially struggling institutions, the outcome is a likely new American system where students can choose from career training and community colleges and technical schools, or advanced credentialing at large state and Ivy League institutions.
This presents a lot of questions about the liberal arts, “well-rounded citizen” mission of American higher education, and how the new industrial revolution is changing the business of higher ed and pruning away those campuses where fewer student and alumni advocates, fewer residents and fewer jobs makes the presence of a college campus hard to upkeep.