Peak higher education, Canada and the US

Along with some recent developments in Canada (Ontario at least), as highlighted by Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates, this is interesting. Time for an Oswald Spengler of higher ed to make some hay on this.

From Alex Usher’s piece, the following is telling (but he doesn’t use the word “peak” anywhere here):

The numbers by field of study are even more stunning.  Overall, there was a loss of 2,050 Ontario secondary students.  The decline in Arts enrolment was 2,600.  Put differently: more than 100% of the decline can be attributed to a fall in Arts enrolment.  Hell, even journalism increased slightly.  This should be a wake-up call to Arts faculties – however good a job you think you’re doing, however intrinsically valuable the Arts may be, kids just aren’t buying it the way they used to.  And if you think that isn’t going to have an effect on your budget lines, think again.  Even at those institutions where responsibility-centred budgeting hasn’t taken hold, cash-strapped universities are going to think twice about filling vacant positions in departments where enrolments are declining.

Bryan Alexander

peakDid we just experience peak higher education in the United States?

I want to try out this hypothesis as a way of thinking about many current trendlines.  Readers and listeners know I have been tracking a large number of grimdevelopments in the American higher education world.  Synthesizing them is what I’m currently addressing.

Peak higher ed means we’ve reached the maximum size that colleges and universities can support.  What we see now, or saw in 2012, is as big as it gets.  After two generations of growth, American higher education has reached its upper bound.

Consider recent news and data:

Student population: The number of students enrolled in American higher education dropped by more than 400,000 from 2011 to 2012, according to Census data.   The number of graduate students also dropped over the same period, falling 2.3% after a decade of growth.  Note that the number of American…

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