Even fancy schools such as Harvard and Dartmouth have seen applications decline, with Dartmouth's dropping 14% last year, a truly staggering number.
It's no picnic for public institutions either. "There have been 21 downgrades of public colleges and universities this year but no upgrades," reported Inside Higher Ed. It's gotten so bad that schools are even closing their gender studies centers, a once-sacrosanct kind of spending.
The decline in enrollment seems to be slowing, but the long-term problem remains: With costs growing, and post-graduation incomes stagnant or worse, students (and parents) are growing more reluctant to take on the extensive debt that is required to attend many private, and some public, institutions.
That is only made worse by the decline in higher education's image, damage that is mostly self-inflicted. As Twitter wag IowaHawk japes: "If I understand college administrators correctly, colleges are hotbeds of racism and rape that everyone should be able to attend."…
From the economics to the politics, colleges and universities are looking less like serious places to improve one's mind and one's prospects, and more like expensive islands of frivolity and, sometimes, viciousness. And that is likely to have consequences.
Industries with bad reputations face declining markets and more regulation. At this rate, that's where higher education is headed. It's not clear at all that its leaders appreciate the depth of the problem.
Reynolds teaches law at University of Tennessee, so he understands the problem from within the asylum's walls.
The April 2013 issue of Reason featured a symposium with Reynolds, me, and many others discussing "Where Higher Education Went Wrong" and how it might get its groove back. My two cents:
You should be going to college to have your mind blown by new ideas (read: whole fields of knowledge that you didn't know existed until you got to college), to discover your intellectual passions, and to figure out what sorts of experiences you might want to pursue over the next 70 or so years….
None of [even the best colleges] will survive the notion that they exist mostly to serve 18- to 21-year-olds kids who need high-paying jobs rather than limn the outer edges of intellectual possibilities.