With the likelihood of most colleges and universities teaching the fall — and perhaps spring — semesters online, it’s clear that many educational institutions will improve over their improvised performances in the spring of 2020. There are many people, including me, who are writing about the financial distress due to room and board refunds and lower enrollments due to freshmen taking a gap year and international students choosing to not visit the U.S. for a potential online college experience. Based on my 18 years of experience in online higher education, I think there are opportunities for colleges and universities that survive financially.
When I saw the headline for The Hechinger Report article, "Analysis: hundreds of colleges and universities show financial warning signs," I thought, “just what we need…another rating system.” To my surprise, authors Sarah Butrymowicz and Pete D’Amato did not develop a new early warning system evaluating the financial stability of colleges and universities. Instead, they utilized the methodology developed by Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge and published in their recent book, The College Stress Test.
On July 31, three researchers associated with the Yale School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School published an article in the JAMA Network Open (the Open Journal of the American Medical Association). This article described a study outlining a simulation the Yale and Harvard researchers developed to determine what would be needed in order to operate a college campus safely this fall.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been following The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of schools that have made announcements about their reopening in the fall of 2020. In today’s Chronicle, they wrote that they are combining forces with Davidson College’s College Crisis Initiative (C2i).
In an article published by Brookings, authors Steven Hemelt and Kevin Stange report that their analysis suggests that moving classes online is unlikely to reduce instructional costs. According to the authors (who are associate professors of public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan, respectively), evidence on the relationship between online coursework and costs is sparse, and the evidence on how online instruction differs by program and field is largely nonexistent.
This week, I moved one of my daughters from her off-campus apartment with an expiring lease to the apartment that she selected for this year. Next week, the same transition will occur with her sister, but at another university in another city. The plans were made and leases signed in January before anyone knew what havoc the pandemic would wreak on their campuses and college campuses nationwide.
In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic attracts much of the attention of the press, the press release about the State Higher Education Finance FY 2019 Report issued by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) on May 5, 2020, probably escaped the attention of many in the higher education sector. However, as states address the complexity of balancing the budget in a year when revenues and expenses have been disrupted, it’s worthwhile reviewing the report.
In my previous post, I wrote that I needed some time to consider the construct of Professor Galloway’s risk/rating system. While there are multiple datapoints and calculations, there are two key calculations, the Value to Cost Ratio and the Vulnerability Score, that comprise the X axis and Y axis of his ranking system.
There is no shortage of people who are forecasting the demise of some colleges and universities over the next few years. For example, in a blog article I wrote earlier this year, I reviewed The College Stress Test, a book written by Bob Zemsky, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge. Based on their pre-COVID-19 analysis of institutional enrollment and financial data submitted to the Department of Education’s Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), they predicted that 10 percent of all colleges and universities are in danger of closing over the next few years.
In 1997, Forbes Magazine published an article titled "Seeing things as they really are," which was an interview about the future with legendary management professor Dr. Peter F. Drucker. When asked about the future of higher education, Drucker said, "Thirty years from now, the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a change as when we first got the printed book. The college won't survive as a residential institution. Today's buildings are hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded." Given that his prediction was for 30 years in the future, Dr. Drucker has six more years for something similar to it to occur.