Today’s online edition of the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports on a couple of blogs that serve as online memorials for colleges that have disappeared from America’s educational landscape. One is Ray Brown’s College History Garden, which is dedicated to “colleges that have closed, merged, or changed their names.”
As the Chronicle notes, those aren’t unusual events, and there have been several periods in U.S. history that saw quite a few colleges disappear. According to John Thelin, a prof at my M.A. institution,
Mr. Thelin points to the late 1970s and early 1980s as some of the worst years for college closings. College enrollment was high during the Vietnam War, when attending college was a way to avoid the draft. But after the war ended, enrollment dropped. Groups like the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education “were predicting that somewhere between one-fourth and one-third of American colleges and universities were at serious risk of closing,” he says. “That wasn’t all that long ago.”
The first half of the 19th century was equally challenging, Mr. Thelin adds. Religious and special-interest groups built too many colleges, and there just wasn’t the demand to support them, he says. So while colleges today are “more malnourished” than usual, we’ve seen much worse.
Other lines in the Chronicle piece were a bit… how shall I say it? Creepy — for me, anyway:
Dana College, which closed after its accreditation didn’t transfer to its new owners, was a small college in rural Nebraska[…] the kind of institution Mr. Thelin might classify as a “rural college that didn’t stand out from the crowd.”
But here in Mondoville, we’re actually growing and perking along. Are we one of those “malnourished” colleges? Yeah — and we even enshrined that in the Alma Mater, which begins “Though small, nor rich in worldly goods, our alma mater…” But I don’t think we’re ready for the College History Garden just yet.