Traditional universities are refunding room and board. While the lucky few schools have the money to do this as well as pay for the new requirements and expenses of moving instruction online, estimates are that between 10 and 20 percent of all universities are in financially precarious situations. The U.S. has about 5,300 institutions of higher learning. Twenty percent would mean 1,060 institutions could close.
But even among the other 80 percent, no one here gets out unscathed. Some state institutions have watched their appropriated budgets be pulverized over the last decade by tax-cut focused governors and state legislatures. The lucky ones have learned to do more with less and find alternative revenue sources. But most simply are squeezed, and hard.
Universities are also facing a demographic cliff. Simply put, in the next decade, there will be fewer college-age students because of birth-rate decline. Over the past decade there was an 11 percent enrollment drop, which will continue for the next decade. To remain competitive, many private universities have tried to balance the sharp competition for students by raising their discount rate — the percentage of scholarship they award.