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To provide some context for my previous post on study abroad, here are some observations taken from an article that appeared yesterday in the online edition of  The Chronicle of Higher Education.   There is a lot press out there these days on the adjustments that colleges and universities have had to make in the wake of the recession, but this one pays particular attention to the need for future change.  The authors write:

It may also be a sign that the full effect of the economic fallout has yet to hit home on many campuses, a perception reflected in numerous interviews with anxious higher-education leaders and in the sobering findings of a new Chronicle survey. In the survey sent to chief finance officers at four-year colleges in September, 62 percent of the respondents said they did not think the worst of the financial pressures on their institutions had passed. Nearly two-thirds of them worry that 2010, 2011, or 2012 or later, will be even tougher.

“In some respects, people are doing what they should be doing in an economic downturn,” says Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers organization. They are aiming cuts at “soft spots” and protecting core academic programs and student aid. But as Mr. Lingenfelter and countless other observers of the sector note, even when the economy rebounds, the pressures on colleges will be greater and all the usual sources of support—states, donors, and students and their families—are likely to be less able to provide resources.

The challenge, says Mr. Lingenfelter, is for higher education’s leadership to recognize that aiming to get back to pre-crash levels of financing or educational effectiveness is not enough. “We come across to the public as totally insatiable and resistant to change,” he says. “We’ve got to improve productivity.”

For most college leaders, managing in this new era of uncertainty has meant hunkering down. But observers say the coming months and years could require far more openness to change.

The full text of the Chronicle article is available here.  I will address the subject of institutional change in my next post, but from a different, specifically Middlebury perspective.

3 Responses to “More on the New Normal”

  1. Midd Parent says:

    Speaking directly to my earlier point:

    “Moody’s expects that of the 320 private colleges it rates, the proportion that will report declines in net-tuition revenue this academic year will be the highest since the late 1980s, when colleges used student aid to keep up enrollments as the numbers of high-school graduates dipped.

    In the Chronicle survey, 85 percent of respondents said they had met or exceeded their enrollment targets for the fall, but among those, 15 percent fell below their projections for net-tuition revenue. In other words, they got their class, but they spent more than they expected to land it.”

    Where did Midd land this fall?

  2. Timothy Spears says:

    We are fortunate in that more than 7000 students applied to Middlebury last years, so we do not have problems enrolling or “landing” a class. But we are need blind, which has implications for our financial aid budget. On that front, we expect to exceed our projected budget by $1.7 million in fiscal year 2010 because more students than usual qualified for financial aid. We planned for this by setting aside contingency funds, which we knew we would have to use.

  3. Midd Parent says:

    1.7 this year is probably 2 million next year. Financial Aid at need blind schools who also have a policy of meeting fully demonstrated need is a moving target – as you point out. Hard to see how a contingency fund that’s going to be needed every year is really “contingent.”

    This said.. it will be interesting to see how the budget allocation process unfolds over the next several years if not the decade. While mandatory travel abroad is an interesting (albeit controversial) concept, I’d be interested to know what other kinds of ideas were presented at this retreat as well.

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