Last year at about this time I published a list of 50 well-regarded colleges that had reported to the National Association of College Admissions Counseling that they had not filled up their freshman classes, despite the traditional May 1st deadline passing. These schools were thus hungry for students and were offering cash rewards to acceptable applicants.
NACAC’s new 2014 “College Openings Update” list is out and there are a whopping 470 colleges listed as still urgently seeking either freshman or transfers students. This large and growing list of colleges that are unable to attract enough students is an alarming reminder of how troubled and inefficient the market for higher education is in the U.S. The vast majority of colleges continues to engage in “prestige” pricing, but ultimately are forced to quietly offer deep discounts in an attempt to fill up their classes. Then, when even that doesn’t work, hundreds report that they still can’t find enough “customers.”
This kind of thing explains why I keep seeing so many editorials arguing that people need to go to college. The powers that be know that they are losing ground. Of course, part of the problem might be that there are no longer as many potential applicants to convince to go to college. The population is beginning to shrink so that there are fewer people graduating from high school.
Economics 101 tells us that either college admissions officers and their consultants are inept, or more likely, that the supply of schools offering college degrees needs to drastically shrink. But don’t hold your breath waiting for colleges to go bankrupt en masse; history shows that these government subsidized institutions can linger on for years even when their financial statements bleed red ink.
If too many colleges are going to linger on for awhile, they will have to keep offering steep discounts to get students. That might work to yours or a family member’s advantage. Schifrin lists many schools that can’t get enough students. Perhaps one of them is right for you at a reduced price.
In the meantime, our political class will do everything possible to discourage us from learning the right lesson from this mess. We should never have constructed a subsidized, state-regulated, higher educational system. It was doomed from the start.