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The Business Model of Higher Education Is Being Broken

Last Friday, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) announced that their fall classes would be held totally online. President Paul LeBlanc explained the decision in his blog that no one believes that a plan to open in the fall will restore life as normal to college campuses. He noted that until a vaccine is widely available, there are too many risks for spreading the coronavirus.

Are Elite Colleges Worth the High Price of Attendance?

In a recent opinion piece published in USA Today, Rick Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, questions the value of attending a selective college if you’re watching online lectures from your parents’ home. Dr. Hess writes that many elite colleges market the irreplaceable experiences of living on campus and if campuses are closed in the fall, those experiences and the reasons for attending go away.

The College Stress Test

My first review of one of Bob Zemsky’s books was in 2008 with Remaking of the American University: Market Smart and Mission Centered, that he co-authored with Greg Wegman and Bill Massy. While Zemsky has written more books post-2008, he’s continued to write about change in higher education and the higher education market.

Keeping Up With Technology, As Observed Through CPA Continuing Education

More than 40 years ago, I started working at Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC). Even though I was on the consulting track, I was encouraged to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and become a licensed CPA. Having this license, along with an MBA, boosted my career and I subsequently served as CFO at five different companies over the years.

Dawn of the Dead

Matt Schifrin and Carter Coudriet of Forbes wrote an article about the financial ratings of private colleges, Dawn of the Dead: For Hundreds of the Nation’s Private Colleges, It’s Merge or Perish. The authors refer to Forbes’ analysis of the finances of 933 private, not-for-profit colleges with 500+ enrollments, stating that the majority of these institutions are in a precarious situation with their high tuition, tuition-dependent financial model, declining overall enrollments, and competitive landscape in higher education.

Which College Graduates Make the Most?

On November 20, 2019, the Department of Education released its long-awaited update to the College Scorecard, revealing median debt, earnings and other data for graduates of specific programs of the represented schools. The Wall Street Journal was given an exclusive look at the data before publication, and provides some comparisons of the data among schools and a handy tool for sorting the dataset by school, degree level and degree type to show the median debt for graduates and median income level the first year after graduating. 

Reviewing the Methodology Behind New ROI Rankings for 4,500 Colleges

 

I am no fan of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, primarily because it is incomplete and may be misleading for some metrics. Much of the data is derived from students using Federal Student Aid (FSA) only and some of it is from those who are first-time, full-time students using FSA loans. At APUS, most of our students are part-time, working adults not using FSA to fund their education. I first wrote about the Scorecard in 2016 and reported about others like me who criticized its incomplete data.

Despite the flaws of the Scorecard, I understand why Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently attempted to create a return on investment (ROI) for all colleges using this data. First, it’s the only published source that uses IRS data to match earnings with students who have attended those specific institutions and who received FSA. With access to earnings, institutional costs and debt incurred, the researchers can calculate a rudimentary ROI.

Prelude to a Pricing Paradigm Shift

 

Ryan Craig’s opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed last week queried why tuition for online programs hasn’t tumbled given the benefits of technology and scale amassed by some of the largest online institutions. He cites several sources, including the BMO 2019 Education Industry report and a 2017 survey by WCET, noting that the average per credit, in-state cost for an online bachelor’s program is 14% higher than on-ground and that 54% of institutions are charging online students more than those on-ground.

Craig states that regardless of which survey you find most credible, few institutions are charging less for online students. He ponders why this hasn’t happened, stating that some colleges and universities are operating subscale online programs which precludes the benefits of cutting tuition. Others spend as much as $5,000-plus in marketing costs to attract and convert a person to an online student.