Much of NEBHE’s Higher Education Innovation Challenge is based on fears that economic and demographic pressures will make the current number of degree-granting institutions (about 250 in New England and 4,600 nationally) unsustainable—especially for those that rely heavily on tuition, have low endowments and are not well-differentiated.
This fear has lurked in various guises for decades. In 1992, then-Harvard lecturer and former president of Bradford College Arthur Levine told NEJHE (then called Connection): “We’re going to see some marginal schools close and some schools drift in quality unless they make some hard decisions about what they are.”
Indeed, data from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) document a steady trickle of mergers and closings over recent decades, with Levine’s Bradford College among the casualties. Observers believe the pace will only pick up as demographic pressures bear down on New England and new alternatives to traditional colleges emerge.