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Two Reports … Three Alarming Trends in Higher Ed

Two recent reports — one by Moody’s Investors Services, the other by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation — reveal some trends that are making U.S. higher education officials and observers nervous. In a story last month for the Washington Post, Jeffrey J. Selingo, former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, outlines “Three worrisome trends in U.S. higher education.”

These include:

  1. The rich keep getting richer. “Combined, the 20 wealthiest private universities in the United States hold about $250 billion in assets. That accounts for a staggering 70 percent of all the weath of private colleges and universities, according to a new study by Moody’s Investors Services.”
  2. Small colleges without deep pockets are struggling to find their footing. “Nearly one third of small colleges operated with a budget deficit last year, according to Moody’s, up from 20 percent three years ago.”
  3. Public flagships are looking more like large private universities. “At two dozen public flagship universities, out-of-state students represent at least 40 percent of freshmen enrollment, and at another 11 of them, out-of-state students account for more than half of all freshmen, according to a report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.” This is giving in-state, prospective college students fewer choices for a public education as financially strapped regional public institutions attempt to take up the slack.

“You only need to look through these two reports to get a sense of the enormous challenges facing higher education,” Selingo concludes. “In this polarized political environment, lawmakers on both sides agree that higher education is in need of change. Now the question is whether their solutions will be tackling the right problems.”

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