We really need to transform our thinking about higher education in this country. Instead of asking kids what college they want to go to, we should ask them what career do they want to pursue and help them make a higher ed/vocational training plan that fits their goals. Instead of pushing the dream school, we should be helping them discover the right job and the most affordable path to attaining it.
With that speech over, let’s look at some data.
Professor Scott Galloway at NYU Stern and his team assembled a data set of which colleges will survive, thrive, and perish because of the pandemic. Like retail stores, many of the perish were already on life support and might have closed with or without the pandemic. We have already seen local consolidations from UMASS taking over New England Law and Quincy College, BU taking over Wheelock, and Hampshire and Newbury Colleges closing. Mt. Ida already closed.
Galloway has Simmons and possibly even Brandeis as struggle schools. BU will be challenged due to the loss of international students who are cash cows for many programs. Clark, MCLA, Mt. Holyoke, and Bard round out the list of struggling or challenged schools. Many will close.
Prof G has also proposed a big reform. Reinvesting in the big land grant colleges and state schools and making them more affordable while driving down costs and admitting more students. Making the hybrid model permanent could seriously reduce costs. Locally there’s already similar partnerships between Regis and Middlesex Community College and North Shore and Salem State. Where students can crush prerequisites at community college rates and then transfer for the last two years. I had a debate partner at U Chicago who did this and was much smarter financially than I was for doing so.
These colleges are also following the path of Liberty University and hastily reopening becoming super spreading red zones. From UNC to BU. All because like many businesses, they do not have an alternative revenue stream to in person activity. Many parents will ball at paying high end prices for remote learning that frankly is identically subpar from institution to institution.
Like subprime mortgages, nearly everyone has been lured at the tender age of 18 into taking on a government backed loan on a depreciating asset they may ultimately be unable to pay. An Atlantic article almost seven years ago takes about killing Pell Grants and FAFSA and the student loan industrial complex and folding the savings into direct aid to public colleges and universities.
The government should make higher ed as debt free as possible at as many institutions of possible while admitting as many students as possible. The public’s do not need to play to US News. They should play to the taxpayer.
We should also reinvest in trade schools like Ben Franklin and the Petersen School and offer public subsidies to attend them and/or create public alternatives. Community college should be totally free. We need to reform higher ed as an economic mobility engine again, and create as many afford paths as possible for as many living wage jobs as possible. Our mindset has to shift from dream school to the reality of the job market.