Sunday, April 26, 2015
Don't Gloat When the Canary Dies
I won’t mourn the loss of Corinthian, but I won’t gloat, either. Some very good people lost their jobs this week, at both Corinthian and DeVry, and I’d guess that some of the survivors at DeVry are running scared. Sweet Briar was shocking, and a real loss. In their ways, these are real losses, too. My condolences to the employees.
Here at For-Profit Art School, our enrollment has declined by almost a factor of two over the last 4 or 5 years, so much so that there have been numerous layoffs of both faculty and administrative personnel. The administrative area, once bustling with activity, is now virtually a ghost town. Many of my friends on the faculty are now gone. And I haven’t even been able to get a part-time teaching gig at the school for the last couple of quarters. The buzzards are definitely circling over my school, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before we close our doors as well.
Why the declining enrollment? One cause might be that students are discovering that a degree from a for-profit school such as mine isn’t really worth very much on today’s job market. The recent for-profit bubble has produced a vast oversupply of graduates in many fields, making it rather difficult for recent graduates to find employment in their chosen fields. Prospective students are finding that a lot of recent graduates from for-profit school programs can’t find full-time jobs in their fields and have been reduced to flipping burgers at Wendy’s or bagging groceries at the local supermarket. Why go to that school, when your prospects for obtaining gainful employment upon graduation are so small? The for-profit educational bubble is now beginning to burst.
Another factor may be a reluctance to acquire massive student loan debt, especially when the prospects for obtaining gainful employment are so slim. I suspect that student loans may be more difficult to get nowadays, the lenders becoming increasingly skittish, fearing that a lot of these loans may never be repaired.
Another factor is the regulatory environment that disproportionately affects the for-profit education industry. For-profit schools have been repeatedly hassled by members of Congress, by senators, and by government agencies for a long list of irregularities, such as over-inflated employment claims, for excessive numbers of student-loan defaults, and for low gainful-employment numbers. Because of the bad smell that has been generated, a lot of people have come to perceive for-profit schools as being little more than scams, designed to separate the student from his/her money and giving little value in return.
Will the diseases that afflict for-profit schools soon spread to the non-profit higher-ed industry? I suspect that the snootiest of the SLACs and the highest-tier R1 universities such as Harvard or Princeton will be pretty safe in the upcoming higher-ed tsunami. They are super-selective and will always have a lot more applicants than they can possibly accept. But most at risk are probably the second-and-third tier colleges that will accept a student if his/her body is warm. Community colleges are probably also at risk, especially when their government funding is cut back sharply. Also at risk are lower-level research universities, especially if their research grant money and their state subsidies are cut back. Maybe even some of the best colleges are at risk—re the closing of Sweet Briar College
Now, as ArtMathProf notes, the shakeout is likely to affect precisely the institutions that I think of as excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention, and that a disgruntled Keene State faculty member tagged as subprime party schools.