The struggles of small private colleges

In Appalachia (and elsewhere). I expect we'll see a rash of closings in the next decade. This article has a little more impact since Virginia Intermont is just up the highway from here. This time it's personal From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Truth-Teller: Once a Small-College Champion, Now a Tough Critic
"It’s a mess out there for these little schools," says Ms. Brown, a former president of the Appalachian College Association who spent much of her career raising millions for small mountain institutions that she says were doing "wonderful things." 
But she suggested meeting here at Virginia Intermont to make a point that a number of people undoubtedly would prefer not to hear from someone with a résumé like hers: "A lot of struggling colleges should give up the fight to stay alive." 
Many small liberal-arts institutions, she says, are "hanging on by a thread" and have been reluctant to risk making changes even as enrollment and revenue decline. For some, she says, it’s already too late.
"Somebody will say, If you don’t do X, Y, and Z, in five years you’re going to be closing. The problem is, they needed to do that 25 years ago." 
She’s the first to argue that many students — particularly students from isolated regions in Appalachia — do better if they attend colleges that aren’t too far from home and that can give them a lot of personal attention. But, she says, "we don’t need three colleges with 600 students apiece within a 30-mile radius, where the only difference is their denomination." 
Virginia Intermont, she notes, is two miles across town from King University, another small institution, and within an hour of three other liberal-arts colleges — Emory & Henry, Milligan, and Tusculum. East Tennessee State University is 45 minutes away. 
"I watched this college die a long and slow and agonizing death for years," Ms. Brown says of Virginia Intermont, which closed after an extended struggle to keep its accreditation and a last-minute attempt to merge with a small Florida college. Arthur J. Rebrovick Jr., whom Virginia Intermont’s trustees hired to close down the college and sell the campus, says Virginia Intermont owes creditors and former employees between $10 million and $20 million, and has "lawsuits stacked up to here." The campus has two possible buyers, and he’s keeping his fingers crossed.


Many colleges are working with a business model that simply cannot sustain them, and tinkering around the edges with defective enrollment management software, combined majors, a part-time M.B.A., or Saturday classes is almost a distraction from the main challenges of shrinking demographics, low-cost online instruction and skills validation, and the imminent tightening of government money that has been pouring into the mix. The problem is compounded because so many college leaders can barely discern the symptoms of the malaise and are blind to their underlying, rampant and immutable causes

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