This recent cluster of articles from The Chronicle of Higher Education seems designed to make any faculty member or administrator at a small tuition-dependent college choke on her Captain Crunch at breakfast:
We may be tempted to scramble and see if a favorite institution is on the list. As I looked it over, a couple of simple observations came to mind:
1. There are a number of what we might describe as "prestigious" institutions on the list. This economy has clearly touched institutions that previously may have been considered "untouchable" by fluctuations in the economy.
2. Sadly, there are a number of Lutheran institutions on the list (Dana is now closed). It would be fascinating to analyze the stories of both those colleges on the list and those that have escaped that fate (so far). What variables, decisions, and serendipity combined to shape the stories of these institutions?
Another recent Chronicle article suggests that many believe a growth model is what will help small institutions endure in this changing world. Others recognize the danger of debt that makes such growth possible:
But as Dr. Bruss and others have so adeptly demonstrated, a clear confession of faith, a focused sense of purpose, and a persistent commitment to academic substance should trump the commercialism and marketing (and concomitant debt load) that tempt us in the contemporary academic arms race.
We're left with the challenge of determining how the small Lutheran college can remain small, faithful, and yet viable in a world in which many of the assumptions we have made about higher education are now untenable or unsustainable. This is the task that defines our time.