Perspectives

Economist Depicts Pandemic’s Pinch on Higher Education & the Average Family


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Colleges and universities and average families are all feeling the financial pinch from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts are dramatic.

Dr. Richard Vedder, emeritus distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, outlines, for the Spectrum Podcast, how these loses will really be felt.

He notes that higher education was already under financial distress before the pandemic arrived. Many universities were facing declining enrollments and rising expenses. Cutbacks were already in the offing.

However, the pandemic added another layer of financial losses on top of a crumbling financial model for many colleges. He notes, that across the country, universities were having to cut staff and administrators even before closing campuses this spring.

Some colleges are even closing their doors—not to be reopened.

Now, with declining state funds along with plummeting enrollments, higher education is making further cuts of staff, administrators and faculty in unprecedented fashion.

At the same time, Vedder says many families now are questioning whether their child should even go to college. He cites the rise in young people following various trades from welding to plumbing and other service professions. He notes that many doing better financially than some college graduates.

Vedder also describes the sudden financial hardships facing the average family. Jobs have been lost and some will not be replaced. Expenses continue while incomes are have suddenly and sharply declined.

This is an environment, he notes, that is reminiscent of the Great Depression.

People don’t know where to turn for help as unemployment rates skyrocket and retail sales figures plummet.

In these times of uncertainty, it is not clear whether students will return or campuses or even come initially. This breeds continual upheaval for universities and makes planning extremely tenuous.

Vedder is a Founding Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, D.C. and a fellow at the Independent Institute.