According to a new report — the most comprehensive to date — on the impact of closures on student outcomes, less than half of students who attended a college that closed re-enrolled at another institution. Of the students who eventually re-enrolled, only 37% graduated. Conclusion: Only 17% of students displaced by college closure obtain a diploma or certificate.
Nearly 1,300 higher education institutions have closed in the half-century between 1970 and 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, leaving hundreds of thousands of students with a handful of credits, none diploma and an uncertain path. Thousands more students risk being similarly uprooted in coming years as the rate of college closures accelerates, in part due to a regulatory crackdown on underperforming institutions and financial fallout from the continued decline in enrolment. Between 2015 and 2020, 533 colleges closed, compared to 744 closures in the previous 45 years.
The new report, released Tuesday, is the first in a three-part series on planned closures by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
The report examines 467 colleges and universities that closed between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2020. Of those, nearly half were private, for-profit two-year colleges. About 28% of institutions were four-year for-profit colleges, and a further 17.8% were four-year private, non-profit colleges. In total, the closed institutions had 143,215 students enrolled at the time of their closure.
According to the report, students affected by college closings are more likely to be female, white, and 30 or older. About 42 percent were pursuing two-year associate degrees, and nearly a third majored in health professions or clinical sciences. This suggests, given the nationwide shortage of nurses and widespread burnout in the healthcare sector as a result of Covid-19, that it is not just individual students, but society as a whole, who are losing out. as schools fold.
While most students affected by the closures were white, Hispanic and black students were less likely to re-enroll elsewhere, the report said. About 56% of Hispanic students and 57% of black students re-enrolled after the shutdown, compared to 62% of white students. Between 28% and 34% of black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American students stopped school for more than a year before returning to higher education, compared to only 19.5% of white students.
“The results were much worse than I expected,” said Doug Shapiro, vice president of research at the Clearinghouse and executive director of the research center. “Find another institution that will not only accept the credits you have already taken, but also…has the same or similar program or a degree or certificate offer that you can complete at that institution without having to start over at a new one. major is really a challenge for many students.
Once expelled from their future alma mater, only 47% of students enrolled in another institution of higher education. Slightly more than a third of these students obtained a diploma. Ultimately, only 17% of students who originally attended the closed institutions graduated, a far cry from the six-year average graduation rate of 62%.
Of the closures examined by the report, more than two-thirds followed an orderly process that gave existing students ample notice of the impending closure, included a “teaching” agreement that would allow students to re-enroll at a nearby institution and put in place records and retention policies so alumni can access transcripts and other documents. The remaining third of colleges closed abruptly, giving students little or no warning of the closure and few resources to continue their education.
Unsurprisingly, the type of stop has consequences for student results. Despite only a third of closed colleges closing abruptly, seven out of ten students faced an abrupt closure, according to the report. Abrupt closures were more common in the for-profit sector – About 45% of two-year-for-profit businesses and 26% of four-year-for-profit businesses closed abruptly. Only 42% of students who experienced an abrupt closure at a for-profit four-year college enrolled at another institution, compared to 70% of those whose former college experienced an orderly closure.
If they re-enrolled, students who attended closed for-profit institutions tended to re-enroll at another for-profit institution, perpetuating a problematic cycle, said Mikyung Ryu, director of research publications at the Clearinghouse.
“For-profit institutions tend to be known for their very aggressive student recruitment. But then what happens once the students have enrolled in this institution? All the academic counseling services, the support services — they really don’t deliver on those promises,” Ryu said. “And because for-profit institutions largely serve first-generation students, especially Latino and black students…we see such a disproportionate negative impact on the minority population because they tend to enroll in a different for-profit establishment.