Which Universities Will Perish From COVID-19?

There is a dangerous conflation of the discussion about K-12 and university reopenings. The two are starkly different. There are strong reasons to reopen K-12, and there are stronger reasons to keep universities shuttered. University leadership needs to evolve from denial (“It’s business as usual”) past bargaining (“We’ll have a hybrid model with some classes in person”) to citizenship (“We are the warriors against this virus, not its enablers”).

Who Thrives, Survives, Struggles, or Perishes?

Over the last month, we assembled a worksheet that looks at the immunities and comorbidities of 436 universities included in US News and World Report’s Top National College Rankings . This dataset compiles numbers from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) maintained by the US Department of Education, US News & World Report , Google Keyword Planner, Niche.com’s Student Life Scores, and the Center on Education & the Workforce. This dataset should not be taken as peer-reviewed or final. It’s a working document that seeks to analyze and understand the US college and university landscape and to help universities craft solutions.

The worksheet is here. Our aim is to catalyze a conversation about how universities can adjust their value proposition.

1 Like

Why are administrators putting the lives of faculty, staff, students, and our broader populace at risk?

The ugly truth is many college presidents believe they have no choice. College is an expensive operation with a relatively inflexible cost structure. Tenure and union contracts render the largest cost (faculty and administrator salaries) near immovable objects. The average salary of a full professor (before benefits and admin support costs) is $104,820, though some make much more, and roughly 50% of full-time faculty have tenure. While some universities enjoy revenue streams from technology transfer, hospitals, returns on multibillion dollar endowments, and public funding, the bulk of colleges have become tuition dependent. If students don’t return in the fall, many colleges will have to take drastic action that could have serious long-term impacts on their ability to fulfill their missions.

1 Like

I can’t bring myself to give this one a “heart” or “like”, but it is a serious concern.

1 Like

You probably heard that Akron became the example of massive slashing of tenured faculty this past week. We have been highlighted in many articles for example: As the Virus Deepens Financial Trouble, Colleges Turn to Layoffs - The New York Times
Over 100 tenure-track faculty lost with layoffs and “voluntary” retirement and separations. Of those only two assistant professors. The bulk were associate and full professors. I still have a job but I’m teaching two classes this fall I’ve never taught before. Akron was in tough shape before COVID-19. The virus just provided a rationale for making all the cuts at one time rather than pairing the university down over the next three years. Still, no guarantee that we will survive even with these cuts.


Sorry to hear that @Joel_Duff. I hope it works out for you.

Speaking from some experience, Bryn Mawr has seriously declined over the last decade or two and the market for an all woman’s school is shrinking.

One could hope that the University of Phoenix perishes like it deserves…

1 Like

That saddens me. I did my undergrad English major there.

I’m confused. Aren’t they an all woman’s school? How did you do your English major there? Do you even have an English major?

I was a student at Haverford College, which has a bi-college deal with Bryn Mawr, allowing all students to take classes in and major at either college. (When I was there, Haverford was just transitioning from being all male.) And yes, I was an English/physics double major.


My wife went there, and majored in biology! Are you an alum? Faculty?

My wife graduated from Bryn Mawr in '86 – I was sort of an “honorary Ford,” participating in the male counterpart to the step-sings and that sort of thing. As I understand it, cooperation between the two colleges has dwindled to near-nothing now. I remember the blue bus between the campuses, driven by an older fellow who, on occasion, would tell us about the “mole people” who lived underground. Good driver, but probably not the most reliable source on that one.

Alumnus. Chemistry peppered with as much biology as I could fit in. Haverford went in early on molecular biology so it was a good blend for me.

I’m not sure I buy their calculations. How one can come up with a metric that predicts Bard with their $267M and Dickinson with $455M endowments to perish but schools like Sacred Heart ($120M) and Guilford ($80M) to merely struggle is perplexing. The factors that entered into their computation seems arbitrary. I also don’t know how much faith one can place on Niche.com’s Student Life Scores - if you spent some time looking through Niche.com’s student review, I think you will agree.

1 Like

Moi aussi. Have many good friends from Bryn Mawr and took a number of good courses there.
I’ve a couple friends who’ve sent their kids to Haverford recently. They feel Bryn Mawr is not doing as well. There just aren’t as many students opting for single sex schools these days.

It seems that way. Its reputation seems to have fallen fast. My wife is always telling me stories of the imbecilic things that current students say on Bryn Mawr student/alum discussion boards. I recall discovering, when we were thinking of going to one of her reunions, that alums can no longer attend step sings because of the nudity. Now, as nudity was never a part of step sing before, that seemed odd, but apparently it’s now a Bacchanal of stripping and streaking sometimes. And “hell week,” which was a pseudo-hazing event in those days, seems to have turned into an actual hazing event.

Nothing wrong with running around naked, though walking is generally safer. Just be respectful… The “Naked Guy” at UC Berkeley was scrupulously hygienic. He put down a towel on chairs before sitting.

But if more than one person does it, I gotta think “Conformists!”

Plus the showers at Haverford were co-ed. Rarely at the same time, but sometimes… :smile:

1 Like

Oh, true enough. Evidently, though, the prevalence of nudity attracted spectators, and the attraction to spectators led people to complain, which led to step sing being closed off to everyone. So if an alum from the class of '38 comes by to see step sing on her hundredth birthday, she’s not welcome.

And that has generally seemed to be the message. The feeling seems to be that everyone who ever attended Bryn Mawr before the current population is some sort of privileged nitwit, while the present population is totally cool. Bizarre discussions – tea parties (at which tea was, in fact, not often served) used to be a popular type of event at Bryn Mawr, and then it got around that the concept of the tea party was racist (!&?##?), and you know how it goes – all downhill from there.

I recognize that young people are liable to be pushy and opinionated. I sure was. But the low quality of the conversation on some of these subjects is disturbing.

Yeah, the path from daring to boring is often short.


There are 89 schools in the PERISH category; one of them is UMass/Boston. That’s where I got my 4 year degree!

Haverford Class of 82 here. This thread is depressing me.

Nudity was traditionally a thing, but in the context of skinny dipping in the Thomas cloisters, not at step sings.


1 Like

If I understand the situation correctly, it got so bad that the college banned hell week altogether. There was some nastiness – students having cold water dumped on them in freezing weather from the rooms over Pembroke Arch, things like that. It ain’t the same ole Bryn Mawr.