In The College Stress Test, Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge present readers with a full, frank, and informed discussion about college and university closures. Drawing on the massive institutional data set available from IPEDS (the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), they build a stress test for estimating the market viability of more than 2,800 undergraduate institutions. They examine four key variables—new student enrollments, net cash price, student retention, and major external funding—to gauge whether an institution is likely to consider closing or merging with another school. They also assess student body demographics to see which students are commonly served by institutions experiencing market stress. The book's appendix includes a powerful do-it-yourself tool that institutions can apply, using their own IPEDS data, to understand their level of risk.
The book's underlying statistical analysis makes clear that closings will not be nearly as prevalent as many prognosticators are predicting and will in fact impact relatively few students. The authors argue that just 10 percent or fewer of the nation's colleges and universities face substantial market risk, while 60 percent face little or no market risk. The remaining 30 percent of institutions, the authors find, are bound to struggle. To thrive, the book advises, these schools will need to reconsider the curricula they deliver, the prices they charge, and their willingness to experiment with new modes of instruction.
The College Stress Test provides an urgently needed road map at a moment when the higher education terrain is shifting. Those interested in and responsible for the fate of these institutions will find in this book a clearly defined set of risk indicators, a methodology for monitoring progress over time, and an evidence-based understanding of where they reside in the landscape of institutional risk.
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