I’m Scared About What Might Happen To Higher Education In The USA

“We are going to see another economic downturn next year,” many high profile economists predict. If these high profile economists are correct about their predictions, higher education won’t be the same again after the economic downturn. I’m scared about what will happen to higher education in the United States next year, I must admit.

This is my fear: Another major recession will inevitably result in less demand for employees in organizations and less money to be circulated in the economy overall. Enrollment in colleges and universities is already down. If a recession is looming, as Richard Wolff is claiming, enrollment in colleges and universities will decrease, perhaps drastically to a point of decreasing enrollments in double digits.

I witnessed IUP going from 15 thousand students in 2010 to 11 thousand in 2015. That’s a lot! Less than 10 thousand students are now enrolled in this institution full-time. Four year non-profit colleges dropped 9% in enrollment. These numbers are scary, I must add. I’ve seen what they do to department budgets, faculty salary, and student tuition.

Don’t be fooled by what you may hear — In the current landscape of higher education, students are clients and universities need them in order to survive, period. The moment that the clientele, students in this case, decide to transfer schools or hold on pursuing a college degree… three things eventually happen. First, colleges and universities close their doors. Second, less staff is hired to perform the many tasks that are necessary in the system.  Third, employees experience high levels of stress and anxiety.

It’s tough, very tough…

To make things more complicated, college tuition along with room and board is at an all time high and society is skeptical about the value of a college degree. I don’t know how you feel about this but to me, college prices along with public skepticism about higher education is a recipe to disaster. Eventually, the bubble explodes, you know?

I think we are going to see the beginning of the end of higher education in this country starting in 2021. I doubt that colleges and universities will change the way they operate and will continue to leverage the use of temporary faculty to teach classes in institutions of higher learning all across the United States. Big mistake! Students don’t want to pay for a non-PhD teaching their classes. How do I know this? They tell me this over and over again in my office.

They want a professor who is presently active in their academic lives. They don’t want a scholars, they want a mentor who takes the time to understand and help them.  Students could care less if a professor publishes an academic article or delivers a presentation in a national conference. I don’t recall a student being interested in what a VP of institutional advancement does.

They would rather have a professor speaking with them in the school’s cafeteria and helping them to cope with college life and its stresses than seeing a professor cash a check every month and making extra income selling her books to fans.  Yet, most colleges and universities still premium these activities for promotion and tenure, instead of catering to those who actually pay the bill.

My predicted outcome for such idiotic leadership philosophy is bankruptcy. Much change is required in higher education, I must add. Why? This is why..

Twenty colleges have closed their doors since 2016. The former doesn’t include the number of colleges and universities that merged with other institutions in order to be in business. By thew way, we are going to see a lot more colleges closing their doors in the years to come because of academic vanity and economic pressures, I think.

Let me clarify one thing. The industry of higher education won’t disappear overnight. Of course not. The recession, if it comes, will force our school administrators to re-engineer our educational institutions and layoff faculty and staff. That’s the fear…

The good news — Faculty members who can wear many hats will be in high demand in 2021, as the operating budget of many colleges and universities will be cut, I suspect. Many jobs will be lost or merged, though. In fact, let me make a prediction.

I predict that colleges with less than 1000 students will be the first ones to go under, followed by expensive tier two private universities with small endowments. I suspect that public higher education, as we understand it to be today, has 20 years to go before they go under also, if that. Why? Because no college education, at the undergraduate or graduate level, is worth paying over one hundred thousand dollars for it.

Would you pay $96,439 dollars for a degree in Management or Psychology? Or a $180,000 for an MBA from the MIT? I admit. I wouldn’t. The value just isn’t there, sorry. It’s too expensive…

What this upcoming recession may do is to accelerate the pains that we are going to experience in our industry, perhaps damaging the existing system to a point of no return. I’m seen the industry of higher education coming to an end in this country, as we understand it to be. I’m already getting prepared for the transition but I doubt that many college professors are ready to what is coming, unfortunately.

If the recession de facto comes next year, it will damage the finances of many college professors and school administrators in this country. We are going to see, I guess. I hope I’m wrong. Who knows… I don’t know. That God be with us. We are going to need Him, I think.