A Worrisome Glimpse Through a Spyglass

Inside Higher Ed

by Steven Mintz

If I were forced to predict what higher education will look like ten years from now, I’d say this:

  • Small liberal arts colleges will be limited to a handful of highly endowed institutions.
    It’s not just under-endowed, rural colleges with fewer than a thousand students that are in trouble. Many name-brand liberal arts colleges are also under stress. Many fail to reach their enrollment goals and increase their discount rate. The sad fact is that the liberal arts college advantage – the dedication to teaching, the close student-faculty ratio, the sense of community, the high graduation rates – is increasingly outweighed by the disadvantages: Limits on program offerings, location in isolated settings, and price. Lacking many economies of scale, these institutions face a crisis: demoralized faculty, diminishing applications, and costs that continue to rise well above the inflation rate.
  • Outside of the more selective, more highly resourced colleges and universities, the private sector as a whole will experience a dramatic decline.
    Private colleges and universities are increasingly caught in the grip of two troubling trends: a dramatic decline in the number of full-paying students with high college board scores and state policies that favor public over private institutions. It’s an environment in which only the well-endowed will thrive.
  • The number of community college transfer students will rapidly rise.
    Climbing costs will encourage an ever growing number of students to start their college career at a community college.  If four-year institutions do not find a way to enroll expanding numbers of transfer students, then the pressure on community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees will be unstoppable.


  • In the name of reducing costs, states will pressure public institutions to award credit for lower-quality courses offered in high schools and elsewhere.
    Dual credit/dual degree programs are already flourishing as are efforts to mandate transfer not only gen ed courses, but courses that… (continue reading)