The Great College Depression Begins: Three Ohio Tales

Jul 21, 2020 by

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is HigherEdBubblepp.Shutterstock.jpgRichard Vedder –

Major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post are writing stories about how Covid-19 is devastating universities and towns surrounding them, particularly in Flyover Country, that part of America located away from the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts where media, business and political elites too often think most of the great minds and wisdom of our nation are found. The Times, for example, recently focused on the University of Akron, and Ohio University, where I reside. Let me speak briefly about three universities in the Buckeye State, including those two.

These schools are getting clobbered financially. Enrollments have been falling for years, so the schools were already in tenuous financial shape before Covid-19. The University of Akron in 1989 had 28,967 students; 30 years later, in fall 2019, it had 17,743, 38.7% fewer. What this fall: maybe 15,000? Moreover, early in this century, Akron went on a huge building splurge including a large fancy stadium, unsuccessfully hoping to attract students, but instead incurring a huge debt burden. Complicating things, another large state school, Kent State, is but 13 miles (16 minutes) away.

As Inside Higher Ed put it, Akron recently had a “bloodbath.” It fired 97 full-time professors, some tenured, after another 21 had already resigned or retired. This continued a major program retrenchment begun in 2018. Whole disciplines are being decimated, no doubt ending several majors. Meanwhile, of course, the school still subsidizes intercollegiate sports with more than $20 million annually, justly infuriating the faculty.

Source: The Great College Depression Begins: Three Ohio Tales

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