Archive for March, 2012

Small Colleges, survival may depend on repurposing

March 25, 2012

In a changing higher education landscape, small colleges need to adapt to survive.

With economic pressures mounting, small colleges need to utilize their physical plant for more than educational purposes.

Small colleges dot the American landscape, often bucolic oasis in urban, suburban areas. 

They are facing changing social and economic realities that include:

  • Online learning, where a student can access world class teaching talent any where, any time and at ones own learning pace, will have students staying home. 
  • Many students can not afford the high tuition, except the very wealthy and those winning scholarships. 
  • Aging infrastructure needs updating.
  • Teacher costs are going up, as well as other costs such as heating/cooling, security, insurance, etc.
  • Capital expenses are soaring as aging infrastructure needs updating.
  • Alumni giving is down. 

As a result, many small colleges are looking at closure or repurposing.

What will happen to these campuses?

One idea is to repurpose them into entrepreneurial communities, live-in incubators.

Providing minimal personal living space with lots of community space to build businesses, interact with others over meals, working out, attending programs, etc.  Most of the daily upkeep of life (cleaning, outdoor maintenance, security, etc.) will be taken care of by the community; thus lowering the individual cost (as opposed to the cost if purchased individually) and allowing one to focus on their business, relationship and life enjoyments.

Another idea is using small colleges for mid-life and transitory residency.

With the divorce rate near 50%, when one-half moves out he/she could move into a small community. 

Or if one takes a new job or assignment away from one’s home, he/she could move into a small furnished room(s) for a few days per week or weeks or months, returning home when possible.

No doubt there are a number of other possibilities.

Isn’t it time these colleges began to think more creatively?  To save their campuses as living centers rather than see them closed and be lost forever.