Change or Die

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Vermont Technical College President Ty J. Handy, in the Winter 2008 New England Journal of Higher Education, writes an interesting article (Differentiate or Die”) about the future of New England higher education. His argument is that, given the significant decrease in the number of students coming out of the K-12 “pipeline” in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the smaller decline in Rhode Island, and the static population in Massachusetts, New England colleges and universities will have to differentiate their brands to appeal to people farther and wider.

The numbers are pretty depressing for ME, NH and VT. They are not great for the other New England states (see below).

But what leapt off the page was what the demographic trends will mean for the sustainability of the cost structure of our K-12 system. With compensation, including pensions, health care, retiree health care and salary (“step” increase add-ons and increases) going through the roof, how will we pay for the district schools we have–especially in western part of the state where enrollment is declining?

See the numbers below (from the Handy article), which represent the 2006 cohort of students, showing the percentage increase/decrease in the number of students enrolled in 2006 in the 12th grade and 1st grade, followed by the raw numbers.

  • CT: 9% increase from 39,895 to 42,665
  • MA: 6% increase from 67,619 to 71,497
  • ME: 20% drop fro 18,024 to 14,393
  • NH: 10% drop from 17,543 to 15,765
  • RI: 4% drop from 10,836 to 10,429
  • VT: 18% drop from 7,599 to 6,205