According to data compiled by Inside Higher Ed, the number of public four-year universities in America declined by 2.3 percent from 2019-20 to 2020-21 and the number of private nonprofit four-year colleges fell 0.8. During those years, the number of community colleges dropped by 2.7 percent.

Data on colleges that are closing is sometimes hard to pin down, for a number of reasons. Consider, for example, the fact that the University of Massachusetts absorbed Newton College, which became part of the UMass system back in 2018. Does that mean that Newton College closed?

But despite the haziness implicit in such data, the fact remains that being accepted by a college that closes – or attending a college that does – is never a good thing for students or their families. Yet there are ways to avoid that eventuality, or to minimize the harm if it does occur.

Signs that a College Could Be in Danger of Closing

  • Enrollment is falling
  • A significant majority of students who apply are admitted
  • Tuition is being discounted
  • A large percentage of enrolled students are receiving financial aid
  • The percentage of students who graduate after four years is falling
  • Major programs of study are being discontinued
  • The budget for new buildings and facilities is stagnant or falling

How to Research a College’s Financial Health

  • Search for news stories in newspapers or other media outlets that are located in the cities or communities where a college is located
  • Join and read postings on Facebook groups that service a college’s students
  • Scan campus newspapers that report on campus trends

And Research a College’s Health on Edmit.Me offers a useful online database of factors that affect a college’s long-term prospects of healthy operation, including the acceptance rate, tuition cost, the percentage of students receiving financial aid, the percentage of students whose need is being met by financial aid, the size of the endowment, the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, the average amount of loans taken by students, and other data.

It’s a very useful source of information that can help your students make the best decisions about where to apply and where to enroll.

How Students Can Minimize Damage If a College They Are Attending Closes

If a college closes, it can be difficult for its students to pick up the pieces and transfer to other institutions. Yet keeping complete files of all documents that pertain to studies at the college is a good safeguard, including:

  • Letters of admission
  • Transcripts of courses completed and grades
  • Copies of research papers and other work submitted
  • Copies of bills for tuition and other expenses paid

In addition, it can be helpful to stay in touch with instructors who taught courses taken, with academic advisors and other administrators at the college that closed. They can be valuable resources for students who are applying for admission to other institutions.

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Students who participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study will gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with their interests, passions, and aptitudes. Participants will receive information on college and career opportunities that match their interests.

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