Shaky Ground in Troubled Times: It's a Perplexing Paradigm-That of Fragile American Colleges and Universities

By Martin, James; Samels, James E. | University Business, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Shaky Ground in Troubled Times: It's a Perplexing Paradigm-That of Fragile American Colleges and Universities


Martin, James, Samels, James E., University Business


IT'S THE SUMMER OF 1987, AND the scene is the venerable Tam Bar and Restaurant on Beacon Street in Brookline, Mass. In walk Drs. Martin and Samels for an evening of banter, ideation, and reinvention of higher education.

First thing, Martin brings in a Chronicle snippet announcing another small, single-sex-affiliated, tuition-dependent (yada, yada, yada) institution has bitten the dust. So we think to ourselves, there's something going on here--not yet palpable, but discernable in subtle ways. Sure enough, since that fateful night at the Tam, scores of small private colleges have met their untimely economic demise.

Fast-forward to today. Just about anybody who knows anything about higher ed knows that over the past 20 years private higher education has averaged nearly 6 percent annual tuition increases. Meanwhile, our economy seems to have reached a 3 percent plateau. Clearly, the differential grows significantly as tuition pricing outstrips inflation and for-profit competition infringes with value-added career connections to the workforce.

For its part, the middle class is being squeezed out of private choice and into the public system. Indeed, of the nation's approximately 4,000 institutions, there are close to 1,200 technical, community, and county colleges. In 2007 Americans will increasingly flock to state and community colleges in big numbers, as small, private liberal arts colleges discontinue, merge, or consolidate.

For those who doubt the existence of a merger and consolidation megatrend, take a look at the list of colleges and universities that have closed, merged, or changed names that's maintained by Ray Brown (www.wcmo.edu/wcusers/homepages/staff), director of institutional research at Westminster College (Mo.). Over the past 20 years, more than 200 colleges and universities have dosed or merged.

A correlation analysis of these closures and consolidations indicates a median frequency profile that looks like a small, single-sex, religiously affiliated, tuition-dependent, modest-endowment-ratio, heavy-depreciation, high-default, poor-retention, low-conversion-yield, junior or liberal arts college having underleveraged, nonperforming assets. These challenges create a cloud of deferred maintenance that detracts from curb appeal and that turns off prospective and current students and parents who are left wondering if their institution of choice might meet its end before their appointed commencement day.

A GENTLER MERGER MANIA

When we predicted the higher ed merger mania of the '80s and '90s, we were wrong--well, perhaps not totally wrong. For sure we had the American college merger model figured out. But we had not anticipated in our earlier writings which included our November 1989 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "College Mergers Have Become Creative Effective Means of Achieving Excellence," and our book Merging Colleges For Mutual Growth (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)--that college mergers could occur through far less intrusive means: soft, gentle takeovers vertically integrating (and sometimes distinguishing) diverse campus cultures, programs, and market shares.

Over time, we learned that, through strategic alliances (i.e., affiliations, out-sourcing, co-developing, co-branding, and co-programming), institutions could effectuate economies of scale, efficiencies in operation, and non-duplication of program effort. Thus, the contemporary notion that remaining institutions would not so much play out the scenario of "the meek shall inherit the earth," but rather transform into collaborators through mission-complementary partnerships.

FISCALLY FRAGILE

Now, you ask, how does one determine whether an institution is fragile from a fiscal perspective? Inevitably, we observe that when good institutions go bad (or at least financially fail), the answer often lies in a lack of leadership talent, resources, and entrepreneurial zeal. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shaky Ground in Troubled Times: It's a Perplexing Paradigm-That of Fragile American Colleges and Universities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.