Kaboom! Hold onto your hats. Here it comes. The largest college enrollment in U.S. history is about to attack this country's college campuses, all because of a huge increase in births during the 1980s. It's the baby boom in full throttle. In 1990, 4.2 million babies were born, just a mere 110,000 less than the baby boom's high year of 1961. The result will be somewhat akin to mass confusion, as schools will revisit their enrollment procedures, look for ways to obtain housing and class space and of course, find more money. Guess who's on the receiving end of that?
To me, it doesn’t mean too much as all my kids were finished with college many years ago but I have colleagues in my office whose offspring are now in their junior year of high school and they are deservedly worried about what will be. Why? Because as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow morning (put aside the present rain, snow, and sleet), tuition and fees (which are already steps ahead of inflation) will rise too.
Clearly, money is a big concern. In fact, in Texas, there is already a budget shortfall of some $5 billion. (that's with a "B"). What that means for a school like the University of Texas at Austin, is that with the upheaval on Wall Street, the college's endowments are way down.
This also doesn't look good for colleges with weak financial support. The upshot could be lots of closings. The federal government says that public and private college enrollments will jump from 13 percent between now and 2012, adding 2.1 million more bodies to the 15.6 million enrolled this past September. Not a pleasant thought.
Some say that more students mean more tuition and therefore, additional money in the college's coffers. Not necessarily so. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, tuition accounts for less than a fourth of the per-student revenue. And, to add salt to the wound, the Center projects the biggest high school class in U.S. history will graduate in 2009--some 3.2 million students.
At the University of Texas, its president Larry Faulkner says that his school is down $5 million this year in what it receives from public endowment shared by his campus and 17 others in the state. And he thinks that will sink even more. He points out that the school needs an extra $20 million to $40 million a year just to maintain buildings, not to mention expanding programs. From where is that to come?
So, besides the money crunch, bear in mind that there will be more students vying for more places at the country's best colleges. Obviously, as the top places pick students more carefully than ever before, there will be plenty that will find themselves in second-tier schools and even community colleges.
What will happen? Stay tuned.
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