As colleges attempt to recover from the pandemic and prepare for future semesters, a New York University professor estimates that the next 5-10 years will see one to two thousand schools going out of business.
Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at the New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business told Hari Sreenivasan on PBS’ “Amanpour and Co.” that many colleges are likely to suffer to the point of eventual extinction as a result of the coronavirus.
He sets up a selection of tier-two universities as those most likely not to walk away from the shutdown unscathed. During the pandemic, wealthy companies have not struggled to survive. Similarly, he says, “there is no luxury brand like higher education,” and the top names will emerge from coronavirus without difficulty.
“Regardless of enrollments in the fall, with endowments of $4 billion or more, Brown and NYU will be fine,” Galloway wrote in a blog post.
“However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of universities with a sodium pentathol cocktail of big tuition and small endowments that will begin their death march this fall.”
“You’re gonna see an incredible destruction among companies that have the following factors: a tier-two brand; expensive tuition, and low endowments,” he said on “Amanpour and Co.,” because “there’s going to be demand destruction because more people are gonna take gap years, and you’re going to see increased pressure to lower costs.”
Approximating that a thousand to two thousand of the country’s 4,500 universities could go out of business in the next 5-10 years, Galloway concludes, “what department stores were to retail, tier-two higher tuition universities are about to become to education and that is they are soon going to become the walking dead.”
Another critical issue underlying the financial difficulties families and universities both face is the possibility that the quality of higher education has decreased.
Galloway argues that an education in the U.S. is observably unsatisfactory for the amount that it costs, given that if you “walk into a class, it doesn’t look, smell or feel much different than it did 40 years ago, except tuition’s up 1,400 percent,” he said during an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
And the pandemic, according to Galloway, has served to expose the quality of higher education.
“Students I think across America along with their families listening in on these Zoom classes are all beginning to wonder what kind of value, or lack thereof, they’re getting for their tuition dollars,” he said.
In the next six weeks, after receiving deposits/tuition, more universities will begin announcing they are moving to all online courses for Fall. The scenario planning via Zoom among administrators rivals D-Day. But likely all scenarios will lead to one realization: the protocols mandated by the surge in US infections will diminish the in-class experience to the point where the delta between in-person and Zoom will be less than the delta between the risks of each approach.
Parents and students may still decide to send their kids back to campus, and make their own decisions concerning the risks they can tolerate with a hybrid experience — online learning while living on or near campus. They should/will enjoy the lawns at UVA and Royce Quad with friends — marked for distancing. But in-person classes should not take place.
Universities will face a financial crisis as parents and students recalibrate the value of the fall semester (spoiler alert: it’s a terrible deal). In addition, our cash cows (international students) may decide xenophobia, Covid-19, and H1-B visa limits aren’t worth $79,000 (estimated one-year cost of attending NYU). This has been a long time coming and, similar to many industries, we will be forced to make hard decisions. Most universities will survive, many will not. This reckoning is overdue and a reflection of how drunk universities have become on exclusivity and the Rolex-ification of campuses, forgetting we’re public servants not luxury brands.
The outspoken professors ends with another uncomfortable truth: Universities that, after siphoning $1.5 trillion in credit from young people, cannot endure a semester on reduced budgets do not deserve to survive.