[More] The Coming Demise of Private Liberal Arts Colleges

Part of my consulting practice is working with organizations helping them anticipate the future, and many of that ramifications that the future has for them.

You didn’t have to be brilliant to see the end of most bricks and mortar retail record stores with the introduction of MP3 players like the iPod and the rise of iTunes and Amazon.com – or the end of newspapers with advent of 24/7 news cycles and mobile computing. You don’t have to be a psychic to see that the higher educational system is poised for remarkable transformation over the next decade or so.

I started my professional career in higher education and may know more than the average bear. As noted in an earlier – The Coming Armageddon in Private Liberal Arts Colleges – the same forces that have hit other sectors (technological changes, cost advantages, and consumer preferences) are lined up a la “perfect storm” fashion. While the changes will hit liberal arts colleges first, all of higher education will eventually be transformed.

There are two more reference points  to add to the mix:

  • Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus’ recent book Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids – and What We Can Do About It (book review here) has a number of suggestions. Their cut to the chase opionions? First, “the business of shaping undergraduate minds, in the authors’ view, charges too much and delivers too little.” Second, their are schools that provide good value for their money. Forget Harvard, try Arizona State.
  • The Wall Street Journal asked recruiters to identify the best schools from which to recruit. Their findings? While Harvard was listed, many of the schools were of the Arizona State, Oregon State, or Kansas State flavor.

In “The Times They Are A Changing” Bob Dylan sang

“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

For higher education, particularly the higher cost private liberal arts colleges, they certainly are.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). J. Mike Smith is a San Franciosco-based career, executive and team coach with an international practice. More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview at WhoHub, as well as participate in a learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.