• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

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Friday Fragments

Shifting discussions about sections, closures, more.

 

March 7, 2019
 
 

When my administrative career started, the conversations around class sections and scheduling had to do with how full they could run -- who would go over a cap, which caps were harder than others, and the like. It was all about trying to squeeze in as many people as possible.

Now, those conversations are all about how small a section can run without closing. I haven’t had the “where will we put all these students?” conversation in years.

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My condolences to the folks at Southern Vermont College, which has announced its closure. It joins Newbury College, Mount Ida College, Green Mountain College, and the College of New Rochelle.

Every college closing brings with it not just stranded students, but unemployed faculty, staff, and administrators.  In most cases, they’re unemployed through no fault of their own. In these cases, they’re thrown into the market in a part of the country where even the relatively healthier places aren’t hiring much.  And the towns in which the defunct colleges are located take a nasty economic hit.

I suspect that more are coming, and I say that more as a parent than as a higher ed insider. Small private colleges without national reputations only offer a good value proposition if they discount dramatically.  But if they do that, they starve themselves of revenue. I understand premium prices for, say, Princeton, but most places aren’t Princeton.  Discount rates over half suggest that many small colleges have hit their effective price ceilings. Add declining numbers of 18 year olds in the region, and the math is tough.

I’d love to see some enterprising sociologist study what happens to former employees of colleges that fold.  Where do they go?

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A conversation in a meeting this week reminded me of a story The Girl told me last year. She was walking in the hallway at school during a class-change period when someone tapped her on the shoulder from behind.  Thinking it was her friend, she turned around quickly and barked “I”M RUNNING ON NOTHING BUT SUGAR AND DESPAIR, AND I’M ALL OUT OF SUGAR!” 

It wasn’t her friend.

World, you have been warned...

 

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