W&M Grapples with Enrollment Crisis

The student-faculty ratio at William & Mary (gold line) has declined in recent years, resulting in higher enrollment capacity (blue bars). Source: College of William & Mary. (Click image to enlarge.)

by James A. Bacon

Higher-ed in the United States is experiencing an enrollment crisis: A smaller generation of college-age students, a higher cost of attendance, and abundant employment opportunities have contributed to a decline in enrollment at colleges and universities for eight years running. And that worries the administration of the College of William & Mary.

In November the Board of Visitors at William & Mary addressed what the downturn might mean to the university’s high-tuition financial model. Unless new revenue sources are identified and costs contained, warned a presentation by the Ad Hoc Committee on Organizational Sustainability and Innovation, “W&M will be engaged in ongoing cost cutting to remain financially stable.”

“Unless we change our revenue stream or our cost model — that is, what we spend and how we spend it — then we would be in an ongoing cost-cutting mode for the foreseeable future to make sure that we remain in a balanced position,” Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration, told the board, as reported by the Virginia Gazette. “Now that’s a significant statement for us to make but it’s really what the data has shown.”

After years of boosting tuition — W&M is the most expensive public higher-ed institution in Virginia — market constraints limit tuition “as a strategy going forward,” stated the presentation. As alternatives, W&M could consider enrollment growth or cost containment through process improvement.

The November discussion is pregnant with implications. As one of the highest-ranked public universities in the country — a commonly asked question on Google is “Is William & Mary an Ivy League school? — W&M has far more options than most institutions. Unlike private liberal arts colleges, W&M receives considerable state support and financial aid. Unlike other small public universities in Virginia, it has significant internal resources. With an endowment of roughly $1 billion, W&M is nearing completion of raising another $1 billion in its current fund-raising campaign.

As the graph atop this post shows, the university has ample leeway to increase revenue through higher enrollment. The student/faculty ratio of 11.7 to 1 is lower than the 12.3-to-1 ratio prevailing seven years ago. That implies an ability to increase enrollment by more than 500 students without exceeding the university’s teaching capacity.

After steady increases earlier in the decade, enrollment at W&M has leveled off. But the median SAT score of entering freshmen has increased. Data sources: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

But an expansion of the student body creates a new set of hazards. The college’s admission rate was around 38%, an increase from previous years. When schools exceed a 40% acceptance rate, their perception as a highly selective, elite institution erodes, explained Tim Wolfe, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions. By accepting an additional 500 students per year, W&M would likely exceed the 40% admissions revenue.

“Unfortunately, at times selectivity sometimes simply ends up being a proxy for academic reputation or quality in the eyes of prospective students and others,” Wolfe said.

Complicating the picture are gender and race ratios. This year about 59% of the accepted class was female, only 41% male. Meanwhile, like other higher-ed institutions, W&M must deal with the diversity issue. The U.S. population is increasingly dominated by “under-represented” racial/ethnic groups. Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately likely to come from lower-income families and aren’t as academically prepared. The competition for the best African-American and Hispanic students is intense — especially for out-of-state applicants — and they are more likely to require financial assistance.

W&M is particularly sensitive to the “perception” issue after a decline in U.S. News & World-Report rankings from 38th among Best National Universities to the No. 40 spot this year. The administration attributes the drop to a change in U.S. News methodology, which placed a greater emphasis on social mobility factors.

Five years ago (in the 2013-14 academic year), W&M’s acceptance rate was an appropriately snooty 33.2%, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) data. But by 2018-19, the university was accepting 36.9% of applicants. Then, according to the Virginia Gazette, the acceptance rate hit 38% in the current year. Though not mentioned in the article, a particularly worrisome undoubtedly was a decline in out-of-state applications over that same period — from 8,727 to 8,669 — even as out-of-state applications to public four-year Virginia institutions surged nearly 25%.

Over the same period, W&M increased tuition by more than 30% to more than $36,500 per year for tuition, fees, room and board for in-state undergraduate students. For entering out-of-state students tuition, fees, room and board is an eye-popping $60,000 (not including books, travel and incidentals). Ivy League charges without the Ivy League reputation is not a winning combination.

Although the presentation noted that “cost containment through process improvement” was a theoretical alternative for dealing with W&M’s financial and enrollment challenge, it appeared to be listed as an afterthought. The Virginia Gazette article contained no quotes to suggest that anyone explored that option during the Board of Visitors meeting.

Rather, the newspaper closed with quotes from President Katherine Rowe, who essentially defined the university’s predicament as a revenue challenge, not a cost-cutting challenge.

Ultimately, in planning for the future, William & Mary must think creatively about different streams of revenue and different ways to compete for college-aged talent, Rowe said. The fastest-growing population who wants to earn degrees in the country is adults who already have degrees and want to retrain.

“Enrollment via a four-year traditional-aged student is not going to be sufficient. We won’t be successful if we only think in those terms which is why we have groups thinking about continuing studies, thinking about adult learners, thinking about transfer students,” she said. “We don’t have one solution.”

One option not under consideration is taking a serious look at the university’s underlying cost structure. I’ll have more to say about that in another post.

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35 responses to “W&M Grapples with Enrollment Crisis”

  1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    There was a recruiter from VPI that came to my school to talk to the juniors. He pointed something out that was very wise. “College is no longer the place to go and find yourself”. He recommended coming to VPI with a clear plan and purpose. It is the only way to get the maximum bang for the buck. Perhaps families and young folks are waking up to the cost versus the benefits.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Seems like there have always been some kids who went to college with some kind of marching orders – i.e. purpose instilled by their parents with significant professions and higher level education.

    Then we have the kids who perhaps a bit rebellious and mom/dad rich and tolerant supported kids “finding themselves”

    I suppose there are as many different College options/paths as there are different kinds of people and it’s interesting to me that many of the tech company CEOs and industry leaders did not really gain their tech knowledge through a conventional College degree path.

    Many 2nd tier Colleges and I think colleges like W&M may be losing relevance to the 21st century economy. It’s not that gaining general purpose knowledge is not useful – but many industries these days require more information technology knowledge… i.e. how a particular field “works” in the information/internet age.

    More and more, the doctors I go to are “data driven”. They do the age-old stuff of blood pressure and listening to the ticker but then they sit down at keyboard and look at test results, prior blood pressure, lab results.. etc…

    My dentists takes an x-ray and then puts it up on a TV screen…

    My auto mechanic plus in to the OBDII “port”.

    I can easily “track” my Amazon purchase from the moment
    the order is received to when it is delivered.

    My phone tells me where the traffic is bad in addition to the shortest route.

    Cops have cars that “read” license plates” and sound alarms if the plate is “hot”.

    All of these things are “brewed” in technology no matter your field of “expertise” and I do wonder how relevant a W&M or similar degree is by itself any more..

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      Larry, instead of making uninformed comments you should lookup any current copy of William and Mary Magazine and you’d be amazed how relevant their educational opportunities are. Another source for your enlightenment would be publications from VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), a part of W&M in Yorktown.

      Guess not much news from below the Mattaponi gets to F’Burg.

      I started at W&M as a chem major and finished at VT in physics and I keep up with both.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Not sure we get the straight poop for any College newsletter..they’re gonna tout themselves.. for sure.

        \I’m much aware of VIMS – but I consider it a “niche” part of W&M as the majority of folks that sign up for W&M could get an equivalent education for much less at other places…

        VIMS is a significant organization – but primarily a govt organization – not sure of how many work there or how many other jobs there are in VIMs type organizations that are not govt.

        What about the rest of W&M? what are their major areas of science?

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    The next decade will reveal which of these schools can thrive in an environment of shrinking enrollment pools and less automatic acceptance of the traditional 4-year-on-campus model. You wrote recently about Virginia Union’s response. William and Mary at least sees the problem, but its unsustainable cost and apparent refusal to face economic reality do not bode well. Funny, I picked it almost 50 years ago because it was truly co-ed (as compared to the UVA of the early 1970s) and because it was far away from Roanoke and my parents but still a low-cost state school. If there was academic snob appeal, it didn’t work for me. I cannot even imagine what it will cost when the first of my grandkids is college eligible – $100K per year, President Rowe? The full cost of my SECOND house times four? Insanity.

  4. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    Jim, I’m somewhat suspicious of student-faculty ratios unless defined as student-“teaching faculty” ratios.

    And also who’s doing the teaching … profs or TAs?

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    In the real world, a business facing declining sales would review its product line; eliminate under-performing products/services; look for new customers; market its remaining products and services; and cut costs, most especially staff jobs. Is there no one on the W&M board of visitors/trustees who knows this?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Yep but places like W&M don’t look at it that way – and in a way neither should Va Tech or UVA because they’re preparing students for the world in 2040 and beyond – which is no so much a “business” with product lines – than a larger vision – perhaps like the R&D part of a company looking to see what product lines will be 10, 20 30 years in the future.

    W&M in my uninformed view – is pretty much competing with generic Ivy League education offerings which are – basically going away… and W&M needs to take a hard look at how they can become more relevant in the 21st century because that’s what’s going to attract enrollment and make them better competitors against other institutions.

    So the question is – should W&M compare themselves to Va Tech in their “product” offerings or is there something still relevent in the 21st century economy that Va Tech has chosen to not engage and leave it to places like W&M?

    I never really though W&M was that interested in tracking what the economy wanted.. but rather Ivy League appeal.

    Beyond VIMs – what is W&M actually noted for? What field would a W&M degree be most useful for?

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      Too many to list: https://www.wm.edu/majorsminors/index.php. But here’s a few of interest:
      Business: Accounting
      Business: Business Analytics
      Business: Finance
      Business: Marketing
      Computational & Applied Mathematics & Statistics (applied statistics, mathematical biology)
      Computer Science
      Geology (general, environmental)
      Kinesiology & Health Sciences
      Mathematics (standard, applied, pre-college teaching)
      Physics (standard, medical, engineering physics & applied design)

      VIMS awards M.S. and Ph.Ds in Ocean Sciences … it is not primarily a government organization any more then W&M itself is.

      1. Larry seems to think W&M doesn’t do science or anyone who goes on to medicine. This is just my experience, but I had three roommates at W&M that became doctors (chemistry, biology, and psychology majors). One went to VCU MCV and told me W&M had more graduates in his incoming class than any other school.

        But the actual data is there as well. Among top public national universities in the US News report, W&M was second only to UC Berkeley in the percentage of graduates that go on to earn STEM-related doctorates. This is based on data maintained by the U.S. government (NSF). Note that many of the top producing institutions on a per capita basis are private LACs.

        SCHEV maintains a database of degrees granted. I looked at it after one of Jim’s articles a year or so ago. It showed that, if you exclude engineering, which W&M doesn’t have, W&M had a higher percentage of STEM graduates than most of the schools in the Virginia system (e.g. chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, applied science, computer science, etc.). If I have time I’ll go back and look again. Anyway, it is a misconception that W&M doesn’t do STEM.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          As usual, Izzo is right on target.

          Larger point here is that this infernal rating game is a false construct that does far more harm to schools and their education of students generally, than this rating system does good.

          In short, a qualified student to a top ranked institution, say Yale, can generally get just as good an education, and succeed just as well at life, if he goes instead to any selective school in America, including those very modestly selective, say University of Kentucky that accepts 90% of its applicants. This is particularly true for undergraduate education.

          Plus, this constant and mindless reliance on these bogus ratings are in most cases not only irrelevant, such reliance is almost sure to do very significant harm, including irremediable harm, to students who are accepted into schools, including graduate schools, for false purposes, like to satisfy diversity quotas, and thus accept and encourage kids who otherwise do not quality scholastically. Indeed, those kids will do far better in life, if they go to schools for which they qualify academically. This should be bloody obvious. If you want to ruin a ballplayer, don’t start off a double A player in the Major Leagues. But Yale has ruined many a student’s life this way. Hence, so many kids there are angry, and rightfully so, as they are being abused daily by their self righteous professors at Yale.

          Obviously this is a complex subject with many nuances, but the general findings are well supported by numerous studies based on solid evidence out in the real world. For some detail see my article here on BR:


    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Well, let’s see. Robert Gates, former CIA director and Secretary of Defense under two Presidents graduated from W&M with a BA in History. He went on to get a Ph.D. in Russian and S0viet history at Georgetown. I would say he did pretty well with a liberal arts education.

      Ric Brown, acknowledged by many to be the expert on Virginia finances, graduated from W&M.

      Dan Timberlake, the current director of DPB is a W&M graduate.

      Here are some more well-known graduates–
      Glenn Close–theater & anthropology, actress
      Jon Stewart–psychology, The Daily Show
      Beth Comstock–English, co-founder of HULU
      Mike Tomlin–sociology, NFL head coach
      Mary Jo White–psychology, former chair of Securities and Exchange Comm.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Yes, I know W&M offers business and science degrees but what is it known for and why would someone choose it over other institutions that also offer business and science if it
    costs quite a bit more?

    Is a degree is business or science from W&M worth more in the labor market than a degree from VaTech or UVA?

    VIMs has a solid reputation but it appears that it is a separate organization – separate funding – 1/2 from the General Fund.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      William and Mary back in the day was about the classic liberal arts, but I agree with Izzo and plenty of my classmates were in the hard sciences and went on to grad or med schools. But they did it with a stronger foundation in the liberal arts because of required course distributions. Just about every class involved research, writing and argument. My final exam question in New Testament was “Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?” and any answer was acceptable as long as the argument was backed with historical citations and sound reasoning. I think we could have the Bible with us but of course you needed to know where to look. Great training for the blogosphere….

      Lots and lots of future lawyers in my class, too. A couple of my roommates ended up in law school. I think because the general academics are so good it also produces (or at least did) some of the best teachers. But when my wife was there her program was so structured she didn’t get to sample the smorgasbord of electives that I got to enjoy.

      It’s market value proposition now, of course, is the claim it is a public ivy, but the value of that was the “public” part of the claim, and with the net price now rivaling the private schools it seeks comparison with, I think that’s a losing long term strategy. Frankly I do not recommend it over VT and JMU or GMU any more, no indeedy.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I agree with Steve. W&M used to be very attractive to out-of-state students who could get a Ivy-league comparable education for a much lower cost. Now the cost is about the same.

        W&M has long resisted pressure from the GA and others to increase the size of its undergraduate classes. It has increased the number of students it admits, but not at the same pace of the other state schools. It seems it is going to have to make a choice: maintain its relatively small size and culture or start cutting some costs. I would start with the administration. Higher ed administration generally is bloated.

        1. Dick, Virginia schools largely use OOS students to subsidize in-state, and there would be a significant political impact now if OOS appeared subsidized or if OOS seat percentages were allowed to increase at the selective schools.
          Jim has written on this. The OOS revenue exceeds the cost of attendance. The lower rated schools may have higher admit rates and lower stats for OOS. They are more likely to be full pay. The higher rated like UVA and W&M are likely to have higher stats from the OOS kids, but what has changed is many privates offer very good financial packages for good students that need aid. As a result, the OOS yield rates are actually quite low. They have attractive private options to consider.

          I agree higher ed admin is generally bloated, and I’m sure W&M has its share. You can look at the organization structure of most colleges that aren’t on the brink and see this. But I’d also argue W&M does focus more on undergraduate education than many schools. Professors teach. TAs are limited to labs. “Instruction” time that is actually research time is probably considerably lower than at many other schools.

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            I am aware of the delicate balance between the number of OOS and in-state students, as well as the difference in tuition rates for the two groups. It might be that W&M’s desire to limit the size of its undergraduate student body is a major contributor to its relatively high tuition.

            I am glad to hear that professors still teach. When I was there (in the dark ages), the chairman of the chemistry department taught
            Chem 101-102 and all the members of the government department had at least one session of Govt. 101. It was the same in other departments, as well.

            You are also right about the private schools being able to offer good financial packages. My oldest grandson, a high school junior, is now looking at colleges. His preference is for a small school and most of those are private. Because he has excellent test scores (I have got to get in a little bragging), his father tells me that these schools are willing to offer a lot of financial aid to get him.

    2. Larry, first, UVA charges a significant surcharge for undergraduate business, about $10K per year. (UVA also does this for other programs like engineering). I don’t think W&M would necessarily be more expensive for business.

      Poets and Quants (founded by the people who created Businessweek’s business school rankings) uses actual data from the business schools and alumni and has become a top reference for graduate and undergraduate business. UVA is one of the best in the country and is #3 in its ranking of undergraduate programs. W&M is the next highest in Virginia and is ranked #21.

  8. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    A couple more points about my W&M experience.

    I was required to take a foreign language ( I did both German and French), English composition, and economics … all of which I questioned the need for at the time because I was all in for “scientific” stuff. When I transferred to Tech I was somewhat bitter since Tech wouldn’t give me credit for any of them but as time went on I was grateful I had taken them.

    The other is that my chemistry major program, had I completed it would have had me transfer to MIT for the last two years of five where I’d get my MIT chemistry degree. Even back in that time W&M must have had pretty good cred for MIT to have had such a relationship with them.

    It took me two more years (including two summers) to amass the credits Tech required but my education surely benefitted from exposure to both environments.

  9. W&M is a middleweight stuck in a USNWR ratings game that only has heavyweight (National Universities, where W&M is placed based on its Carnegie classification) and lightweight (National Liberal Arts) categories. Schools like the University of Richmond (which many might think of as similar to W&M) and Washington & Lee are in the Liberal Arts category.

    W&M is really a middleweight. It is mostly an undergraduate school with some graduate and professional programs. It does not have a medical school or division or a large research program. Almost all of the top schools in USNWR National Universities have medical schools and/or large research programs (there are exceptions like Princeton, which has to make do with its piddling $26B endowment to support its 8,000 students). These programs contribute to the institutional resources that are a component of USNWR rankings. W&M, I believe, has lower institutional resources per USNWR than any school ranked higher and most in the top 100. I would argue that medical divisions and large research programs have almost nothing to do with the quality of undergraduate education and they may even be a detriment. They are in my view they are two of the biggest areas for financial bloat and chicanery. (You have probably seen me write ad nauseam on this board that higher ed R&D is funded significantly but not transparently by diverting undergraduate tuition to support it.)

    I believe Steve’s view is W&M should keep prices down, not have the high tuition/high aid model, forget about playing the USNWR game (which it isn’t going to win unless methodologies change), and focus on providing an updated version of what it has done best (real teaching, undergraduate research, writing and logic, residential community, etc.). He might think of it as liberal arts for the 21st Century. I think the majority of alumni would agree with much of this, but would not be comfortable giving up on USNWR ratings. Reed College tried its hand at that game and got crushed. Higher ed administrators know that and they also know many students apply and make decisions based on rankings, which has financial implications. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    Jim is looking at W&M I presume because it has the highest list price among public schools in the Commonwealth. There is obvious merit in this, but I would point out that W&M has essentially the same net price as other Virginia institutions (UVA, VT, JMU, GMU) if you look at the College Scorecard data and lower debt and debt growth than almost all schools in Virginia if you look at SCHEV (Known Debt at Graduation of Known Borrowers). W&M has had the lowest or second lowest student loan default rate among all public universities since the government started reporting it.

    In addition to its primary rankings, USNWR has a couple of supplemental rankings that you might think are better indicators of undergraduate education: undergraduate teaching and undergraduate research and creative projects (undergrad research is often critical for getting into professional schools like medicine and for differentiation in hiring in many fields). Both of these require a commitment of faculty time and effort. W&M is ranked tied for #5 in undergraduate teaching and #13 in undergraduate research. No other public national university is ranked higher for that combination.

    So I am sure there is bloat that should be addressed, but I would argue we shouldn’t forget what W&M does well.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Great summary. I hope W&M continues to concentrate on undergraduate teaching, with an eye toward providing exposure of the liberal arts to all students.

      As far as tuition is concerned, one factor that has not been considered is the “William and Mary Promise”. This is the idea that a student’s tuition cost will not increase during the four years he/she is in school. So, that $35,ooo tuition that freshmen pay will be the same tuition they pay as seniors. I am sure the school factors in estimates for future inflation when it sets its rates, but when we compare the tuition costs for incoming freshmen classes for various schools, we miss the impact on the total cost over four years.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Izzo is dead on right in his analysis.

    There is, as he suggests, much room for us here to explore the cost areas that W&M must consider if it is to extricate itself best from the box it has put itself in, trying to compete with “Izzo’s heavyweights” where it cannot successfully compete, and where, most importantly, it has no need to compete.


    The heavyweights are highly inefficient and wasteful teaching machines. They carry much bloat and excess costs in the form of Administrators and contrived departmental studies programs, that have nothing with teaching students anything of real value, and in fact negatively impact student education.

    Now, these problems have grown to compound obstacles to student education, as these administrators and faculties are actively and profoundly inferring with the proper education of students, most particularly undergraduate Liberal Arts and Science students, on which William and Mary’s reputation was so well deserved in its past history.

    A major component of this institutional bloat (Administrative and faculty) are the social justice programs described so ably in the National Association of Scholars report that I linked into an earlier post here. This association comprises many of America’s outstanding members of Academia. It is estimated in that report that nationally these higher education programs now cost the nation, its students, their parents and taxpayers, some $30 billion dollars annually.

    For more insider information on how this works in practice on the individual scholar level, please see Confessions of a Social Constructionist by Christopher Dummitt, published 3 months ago in Quillette.

    Here is introduction to that informative article:

    “If I had known, 20 years ago, that my side in the ideological wars over gender and sex was going to win so decisively, I would have been ecstatic. Back then, I spent many evenings at the pub or at dinner parties debating gender and identity with other graduate students; or, really, anyone who would listen—my mother-in-law, my relatives, or just a random person unlucky enough to be in my presence. I insisted that there was no such thing as sex. And I knew it. I just knew it. Because I was a gender historian.

    This was, in the 1990s, the thing to be in history departments across North America. Gender history—and then gender studies, more generally, across the academy—was part of a broader group of identity-based sub-disciplines that were taking over the liberal arts. History departments across the continent were transformed. When the American Historical Association surveyed the trends among major fields of specialization in 2007, and then again in 2015, the single largest field was women’s and gender history. This was right up there with social history, cultural history, and the history of race and sexuality. Each of these fields shared the same worldview as I did—that just about every identity was a social construction. And, that identity was all about power.

    Back then, quite a few people disagreed with me. Almost nobody who hadn’t been exposed to such theories at a university could bring themselves to believe that sex was wholly a social construct, because such beliefs went against common sense. That’s what makes it so amazing that the cultural turnaround on this issue has happened so quickly.

    Reasonable people might readily admit that some—and maybe a lot—of gender identity is socially constructed, but did this really mean that sex doesn’t matter at all? Was gender solely based on culture? Yes, I would insist. And then I would insist some more. There’s nothing so certain as a graduate student armed with precious little life experience and a big idea.

    And now my big idea is everywhere …”

    Mr. Dummitt’s fine article goes on to explain in detail WHY and HOW that big and significantly false idea of his got to be “everywhere” in higher education.

    I fear the William and Mary now is trying to play this game, to match UVA, another very expensive fool’s errand that today is also increasingly driven by the RATINGS GAME.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      The Confessions of a Social Constructionist written by Christopher Dummitt, and published in Quillette is found at:


    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      With the National Association of Scholars report on Social Justice, and the Quillette article The Confessions of a Social Constructionist, we have the last pieces we need to fully understand the chronic cost spiral of American higher education. And why it has for two decades “endlessly chased its tail demanding ever more money.”

      Now also we can more fully understand the scope and reasons driving the enormous harm that higher education reeks on American society generally, each year.

      Hence we better know understand the concerns raised in my Nov. 10, 2017 article Toxic Waste: Relativism and Globalism. That post is found here at:


      Recall that we first learned about the general structure and nature of the modern national research university from Teresa Sullivan’s May 3, 2012 memo the Rector Dragas, and now we better understand how and why such institutions work. And how they have infected smaller institutions such as liberal arts and science colleges, and smaller universities.

      To sum up all that we have learned about our system of American education since 2012 in a nutshell, consider this very brief summary:

      1/ The system’s primary and overarching need is to constantly climb the USN&WR rankings so as to attract ever larger numbers of high scoring SAT students applicants willing to pay ever higher tuition costs and related fees, and thereby too every year enlarge the number rejections claimed.

      2/ These ever higher tuition costs and fees are critically necessary to cover inevitable monetary losses, gaps, and shortfalls in the operation of modern university research and development activities, and an array of faculty, and facilities enlargements, that all institutions now require constantly to remain competitive with their peers.

      3/ These university research programs are critically necessary to attract highly expensive rainmaker professors, and their very high installment, maintenance, and overhead costs, including labs, technical assistants, administrative assistants, as well as huge administrative staff overhead for managing an ever enlarging array of “profit” centers need to pay and reward these rainmakers who now include professors and a vastly expanding number of administrators who oversee them and and now also Social Justice programs that liberal arts departments demand to keep their monetary rewards and staff overhead growing along with their institution’s STEM programs, as discussed below.

      3/ These universities also need ever more larger and grander facilities of all sorts that require huge capital outlays needed to attract high quality students, faculty, and research, all done in pursuit of ever higher rankings.

      4/ These higher education institutions now also demand ever more research not only in the STEM fields, but also in undergraduate fields of Arts and Sciences with result that the latter’s prior fixation with relativism, critical theory, post modernism, deconstruction, and power theory, has morphed into a common discipline called Social Justice that indoctrinate students in lieu of teaching them to think for themselves, and that sends these indoctrinated students out into streets, secondary schools, general public and professions to propagandize their fellow Americans in their ideological fads.

      5. This Social Justice ideology has spread from the large research universities to the smaller liberal arts universities, as explained in detail by The Confessions of a Social Constructionist article and Social Justice report of the National Association of scholars.

      6. This entire madly growing machine is fueled and turbo charged by out of control Federal Student Loan and grant programs, massive annual Federal research grant spending, and the creation of “cash cow” research medical hospital facilities funded by federal programs that, along with ever increasing tuition and other costs piled onto the general public now funds what has become a monster system of higher education bloated beyond all recognition – a money making machine whose primary goal is to enrich those who run it, at great public expense, particularly students, their parents, taxpayers, and government treasuries.

      1. Reed, I agree this is a great summary. The one point I would add is the way universities account for much of their revenue and expenditures lends itself to a shell game that obscures what funds what. Some revenue and expenditure is 1:1. Room and Board, for instance. But it takes advanced forensic accounting to try to figure out where tuition, state general fund appropriations, and operational surpluses are actually used (and by actual use I mean the actual activity, not the name given to the activity, for instance something called instruction that is actually departmental research). I suspect many would be shocked if they did know.

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    W&M is a significant University – no question about it – but it is pricey – no question about that either.

    Going back to their own concerns – who is their primary customer? who is willing to pay a premium to go to W&M to get what a lot of other institutions offer for less? Or, to be fair, does W&M offer something more that cost more but it’s not easily quantified?

    Perhaps my own experience colors my views. I did not come from a family that had the means to send me to a major college. In fact, I had to work my way through college and so I was more concerned with costs and courses that would find me employment… and I would NEVER go into huge debt for College unless there just was no other possible way… and as long as I could work and attend college at night – I was good.

  12. […] W&M Grapples with Enrollment Crisis  Bacon’s Rebellion Source link […]

  13. Larry, whether it is a good policy is subject to debate, but W&M uses higher tuition to help fund financial aid, so the results are not quite what you think. You may have been better off at W&M than other schools given your circumstances. Here are the the median debt, increase in median debt over last 10 years, and increase or decrease in number of students graduating debt for some Virginia schools based on SCHEV data:

    W&M – $22K median debt, 33% median debt growth over 10 years, decrease of 6% in number of students graduating with debt.

    VT – $27K median debt, 41% median debt growth over 10 years, increase of 14% of students graduating with debt.

    UVA – $21K median debt, 27% median debt growth over 10 years, increase of 24% in number of students graduating with debt.

    JMU – $25K median debt, 50% median debt growth over 10 years, increase of 53% in the number of students graduating with debt.

    GMU – $25K median debt, 63% median debt growth over 10 years, increase of 60% in the number of students graduating with debt.

    1. Larry, you seem to hold above that a school like VT is the model for the future in that it has majors that are conveyor belts to jobs, and schools like W&M are some sort of dinosaur. However, if you take a quick look at the the most recent “first destinations” reports for VT and W&M, where they provide the results of surveys on recent graduates, you will see that 76% of W&M graduates were employed full time and 5% were seeking employment. For VT, the numbers were 60% employed and 18% were seeking employment. (The majority of the remainder in both cases were continuing graduate education.)

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Hurray! I have finally found another supporter and proponent for a liberal arts education. And, to top it off, one who can present some data in defense of it. Now I know where to go look for support. Thanks.

      2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        A liberal arts education, which I received, can be a very good foundation for many careers. It teaches one how do think and master a wide variety of subjects, similar to what one finds in life. Students should, however, consider the usefulness of their major or field of concentration. It may be easier to translate an English or (general) History degree into a career or post-graduate degree than some specialized and narrow fields.

        I believe that a number of studies have found that many corporate executives have liberal arts degrees.

  14. One unfortunate outcome of this is that schools like W&M will be unlikely to discuss impending shifts so publicly. This started with a number of articles in higher ed and mainstream publications talking about declining enrollment in U.S. higher education and its impact on institutions. One of those articles, “The Great Enrollment Crash” from the Chronicle Review was included in the pre-read material for the William and Mary Board of Visitors Meeting. A university administrator spoke candidly about the enrollment shift’s impact on W&M. Acceptance rates may have to increase. More may have to be accepted from waitlist. These actions may impact gender balance. These are impacts, but not actually an enrollment crisis at W&M. (For enrollment crisis, think of Sweet Briar College.) But what was the result? Headlines like this one: “William & Mary Grapples with Enrollment Crisis”. That isn’t the sort of coverage any school wants. I bet the president and the administrator will not be public and candid again, and these topics will get less discussion at board meetings.

  15. […] Biological Engineering | December 31, 2019 | No Comments […]

  16. […] W&M Grapples with Enrollment Crisis Bacon’s Rebellion (12/31/19) Higher-ed in the United States is experiencing an enrollment crisis: A smaller generation of college-age students, a higher cost of attendance, and abundant employment opportunities have contributed to a decline in enrollment at colleges and universities for eight years running. And that worries the administration of the College of William & Mary. Read more… […]

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