Archive for October, 2020

Pennsylvania’s Firings Another Precursor to Future Austerity

October 31, 2020 Comments off

This Forbes article is a coda to my post from earlier today… storm clouds are gathering and unless the federal government decides to bail out higher education the way they bailed out the banks there will be lots of well educated people filing for unemployment.

Problems Facing Vermont Colleges Who Survived THIS Will Challenge ALL Publicly Funded Schools Will Face NEXT Year

October 31, 2020 Comments off

Vermont Digger‘s Lola Duffort posted an article earlier this week that described how Vermont’s state funded post secondary schools made it through 2020-21 but might not survive in 2021-22. Given the prediction that the decline in enrollments and/or on campus residence would cause serious revenue shortfalls, the State legislature managed to find $30,000,000 to help the colleges and technical schools remain open. But next year looks daunting, especially in light of this quote from the Bureau of Labor on the impact of job losses on the economy:

The drop in tax revenue has led to a total shortfall expected in the hundreds of billions of dollars—greater than 2019’s K-12 education budget for every state combined, or more than twice the amount spent that year on state roads and other transportation infrastructure

At this juncture State legislatures have generally not begun working on their 2021-22 budgets… but those who have, like NYS, are painting grim pictures for both K-12 and post-secondary schools. And if tax revenues are falling by the BILLIONS it is hard to imagine that Vermont will be able to find $30,000,000 to augment their funding for state colleges let alone sufficient funding for their public schools.

The solution to this is some kind of federal stimulus… and this will be one of many emergency issues that either President will need to face when the campaigning ends. Clearly a Biden victory would yield better results for schools given the Democrats willingness to effectively transfer billions of federal dollars to State coffers to help avoid the Draconian cuts needed to keep colleges afloat. We’ll know the victor soon… but the ultimate fate of the state funded colleges and schools will not be clear for months.

COVID Crises Causing Collapse of College Majors, Grad Schools… and Main Street Businesses in College Towns

October 27, 2020 Comments off

The NYTimes Shawn Hubler describes the devastating impact of COVID on college campuses across the country in “Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic with “Nothing Off Limits“, her article that appeared in today’s newspaper. But as a key paragraph in the article notes, many colleges were already on shaky ground:

Even before the pandemic, colleges and universities were grappling with a growing financial crisis, brought on by years of shrinking state support, declining enrollment, and student concerns with skyrocketing tuition and burdensome debt. Now the coronavirus has amplified the financial trouble systemwide, though elite, well-endowed colleges seem sure to weather it with far less pain.

“We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years — probably more than 12 years,” Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told his board of governors this month as they voted to forge ahead with a proposal to merge a half-dozen small schools into two academic entities.

Under-enrolled and underfunded state colleges are taking the biggest hits because they typically enroll students who do not have the resources to attend a private college and lack endowments that might make it possible to backfill lost tuition income or the added burdens that colleges are assuming during the pandemic. As Ms. Hubler notes:

The American Council on Education and other higher education organizations estimated that the virus would cost institutions more than $120 billion in increased student aid, lost housing fees, forgone sports revenue, public health measures, learning technology and other adjustments.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, liberal arts programs and colleges that serve low income students are suffering the most.

Most of the suspensions are in social sciences and humanities programs where the universities — rather than outside funders such as corporations, foundations and the federal government — typically underwrite the multiyear financial aid packages offered to doctoral students. University officials say the suspensions are necessary to ensure their strapped budgets can continue supporting students already in Ph.D. pipelines….

As it is, the pandemic has had an outsize impact on less affluent students: A survey of 292 private, nonprofit schools released this month by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported a nearly 8 percent decrease in enrollment among students who receive federal Pell Grants.

And in the aggregate, these budget cuts have resulted in the loss of roughly 300,000 jobs— from administrators to janitors and far too many professors! And the cuts will have a ripple effect beyond the employment of those on campus. In Hanover NH where I live, the partial closure of Dartmouth’s campus has resulted in the closure of several restaurants and small businesses who depended on college students, weekend visits from parents and alumni, and college employees to keep them afloat. And I know that the threatened closure of one of Vermont’s small campuses sent shock waves through the community it would impact.

We DO need institutions that provide opportunities for learning…. one of the questions that will face us in the coming years is whether those institutions should be traditional colleges or some new form of learning.