St. Gregory’s is not alone; multiple small, private universities have announced their closure this year, including the Memphis College of Art, set to close in 2020, and Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana, which closed in April.
Moody’s Investors Service released a report in 2015 which predicted the closure of small colleges to triple by the end of this year. The report found small universities have been losing market share since 2010, as students have begun to favor larger institutions due to their resources and alumni networks.
Paul Umbach, a professor of higher education at N.C. State University, said small universities are so financially unstable because they rely heavily on tuition for funding.
“If you think about a small school projecting an incoming class of 150 students, if they lose just 10 students, that is a huge decline in revenue,” he said.
Umbach said in order to curb losses in revenue, universities must focus on increasing enrollment — through student aid and successful marketing — and also by increasing donations and endowments to the university in order to stabilize their revenue stream.
Lynn Morton, president of Warren Wilson College near Asheville, said the continued existence of small universities is essential for students seeking smaller class sizes and a well-connected community.
“We believe that we offer an alternative to the bigger schools,” she said. “We may not all have football teams or nationally-ranked athletics, but what we do offer is individualized instruction and a very personalized experience.”
Morton noted very few colleges have failed, considering the thousands of small colleges that exist in the United States. She said, however, it was still concerning to see multiple small, private institutions cease operations.
“We’re very different," she said. "Each independent college has it’s own mission, vision and character — all of us really want to pull together to keep that option open for as many students as possible.”