Colleges are Closing Abruptly

Cole Hall, North Campus Staff

Madeline Going is one of many students affected by the abrupt closing of Mount Ida College in New England. “I was almost finished with my second semester when I got the news we were closing,” says Going. “There was a lot of confusion from students and staff when we received the email that our school was being purchased by the University of Massachusetts school system.”

Within the last few years, the United States has seen record low numbers of open colleges. These closures have been partly attributed to declining enrollment numbers over the years. According to data released by the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, the overall headcount of enrolled students has dropped 3.1 million over the last seven years, from 29.5 million to 26.4 million. This is a 10% decrease that encompasses all U.S. institutions.

This is especially impactful to colleges who rely heavily on tuition as their main source of income. Some colleges rely on tuition to cover over 70 percent of their costs. According to an article by The Boston Globe in 2018, the College of St. Joseph in Vermont relied on tuition for 90 percent of its income, yet it covered only 58 percent of the school’s expenses for that year. The school has closed since that article was published.

By comparison, in 2017, Harvard University received 21 percent of its overall revenue from tuition. “Small private colleges are all going through financial instabilities as more and more students are going to larger state schools. Especially as college prices continue to rise and more students are taking a more financially responsible route and going to community colleges,” said Going.

Smaller intuitions and community colleges have taken the brunt of the hit, forcing some of them to merge, consolidate or outright close.  Colleges like Mount Ida have been closing at an accelerated rate in the past decade, with little signs of stopping. It is possible that this is simply a phase within the education system, though experts say the outlook in the current state looks grim.

According to an interview in U.S. News, President of UMass Marty Meehan said, “Colleges and universities will have too much capacity and not enough demand at a time when the economic model in higher education is already straining under its own weight,” he said. “Make no mistake – this is an existential threat to entire sectors of higher education.” Questions on how institutions should handle closing procedures have become increasingly important to answer. Going transparency is the key to dealing with the fallout of these closures.

“Mount Ida hid the fact that they were struggling right up until they closed. Colleges should be open with their students, as they are paying thousands to go there. Students and teachers alike were not given enough time to find new places of education or employment,” said Going.