The Unstable Business of Higher Education

AP Photo/Toby Talbot

When a college closes, its property gets sold off, employees get paid out, and, as Alia Wong writes at The Atlantic, “customers are told to move on.” But for many students and faculty, personal connections to their college makes losing their school different from losing other businesses. How do they deal with the loss? And how can small colleges avoid this fate? Through the story of 57-year old Newbury College in Massachusetts, which closed this May, Wong explores the threats facing many American liberal arts colleges.

Students I spoke with described a grieving process after hearing the news that went from shock to panic, curiosity to nostalgia, heartbreak to acceptance. Stefan, who’s from the Denver area and had finished her finals early last December, was on a cruise celebrating her 21st birthday when news of the closure broke, oblivious due to her lack of reception. Upon returning to shore, her phone lit up with texts from her friends and bosses. Stefan, who’d held a host of roles on campus during her three years at Newbury—an athlete on three sports teams, an RA, and a work-study employee in admissions, to name a few—started applying to other colleges as soon as she got home. She proceeded to spend her entire winter break obsessing—and often crying—over her next steps. “Every day I was like, Oh my Godwhat am I going to do?!” Stefan recalled. “Newbury was my home away from home.”

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