Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Small private colleges are closing and need to do better

Many small, private colleges across New England are facing tough times. These institutions are dealing with declining enrollment, low graduation rates and troubling finances. Almost half of the smallest private four-year colleges in the region have a six-year graduation rate below the national average, 60 percent, according to The Boston Globe.

While it is unfortunate there are so many closings, these colleges should not be open if they cannot provide an adequate four-year degree program. The primary concern of these institutions must be their students, who are left stranded if the college shuts its doors.

When colleges accept students, they need to make sure they have strong enough finances to provide an education for at least four years, if not six.

Small private colleges provide an atmosphere unlike those of large state or private universities. Through close relationships with professors and other staff members, students are able to receive a highly personalized liberal arts education.

However, this is only possible if students are prepared for college in the first place. As a result of a reduction in applicants, some schools lower their admissions standards yet lack the resources to help these underprepared students succeed.

Just this week, Southern Vermont College announced it will close after the spring semester, WBUR reported. The school’s leaders claim operations are no longer financially viable due to a drop in enrollment and rising debt.

“Personally, I am just very devastated by this because I think this is a great institution, but it’s got a kind of greatness that’s very difficult to keep going fiscally in the current climate,” Southern Vermont College President David Rees Evans told WBUR.

In the United States overall, college attendance declined for the seventh straight year in 2018, according to Inside Higher Ed. The largest proportional declines by far were among four-year, for-profit universities.

Colleges must invest in their students’ education. Lowering admissions standards may have short-term benefits, but it will end up lowering graduation rates. Saddling students with thousands dollars of debt is immoral when overall graduation rates for four-year degrees are so low.

Many students are being left with hefty loan payments and no degree to show for it, and that is a disservice to the future of our country.

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