For the first time in 185 years, there will be no fall semester at Green Mountain College in western Vermont. The college, which closed this year, isn’t alone: Southern Vermont College, the College of St. Joseph, and Atlantic Union College, among others, have shuttered their doors, too.
The schools fell victim to trends in higher education – trends that lead one expert to believe that more schools will soon follow.
“I think 25% of schools will fail in the next two decades,” said Michael Horn, who studies education at Harvard University. “They’re going to close, they’re going to merge, some will declare some form of bankruptcy to reinvent themselves. It’s going to be brutal across American higher education.”
Part of the problem, Horn explained, is that families had fewer kids after the 2008 recession, meaning that there will be fewer high school graduates and fewer college students. “Fundamentally, these schools’ business models are just breaking at the seams,” he said.
That’s what happened to Green Mountain College. When Robert Allen became president of the school in 2016, he realized “very quickly” that the school had a problem. “I’m a mathematician by training, a financial person,” he said. “And I realized that we were going to come up short.”