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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Short on college students? Add casino studies!

New casino management programs have proven to be a bad bet for colleges trying to boost enrollment.

As the U.S. is running low on 18-year-olds. Non-elite colleges are having trouble meeting enrollment or net tuition revenue targets, wrote Bob Hildreth in 2017. A Chronicle of Higher Education report, predicts steady enrollment declines over the next 10 years. Some colleges will not survive.

Eager to fill the seats, colleges are adding degree and certificate programs, writes Hechinger’s Jon Marcus. Since the enrollment slide started in 2012, higher education institutions have increased programs by 21 percent, federal figures show.

Some, like cybersecurity, seem good bets, which is why more than 400 programs in it now are being offered, with more added each semester. . . . But critics warn that many of these programs and majors are being added hastily and with little strategy behind them, stretching faculty and other resources in the expectation of attracting students who never materialize. “It’s pretty clear that this is a panic reaction,” said Robert Zemsky, senior scholar at the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. “It’s just spreading a thin broth thinner.”

Fifteen universities and colleges added casino management programs in response to the spread of legalized gambling, Marcus writes. They “produced all of 34 graduates in 2016, or about two graduates per program, an analysis by the education consulting firm Eduventures found.”

. . . new programs reported by universities and colleges include a minor in hip-hop studies (Columbia College Chicago); a major in sports communication with a minor in eSports, the field of competitive video gaming (Emerson College); and a master’s degree in sport business (Temple University). Elizabethtown College has added a master’s degree in peace education, the University of Richmond a certificate program in political campaign management, Fordham University a master’s degree program in humanitarian studies, and Goddard College a concentration in embodiment studies, described as “honor[ing] the intelligence of the body and its capacity for insight and liberation with respect to lived bodies, social bodies, and the living earth.”

When enrollment peaked in 2011, there were nearly 3 million more college students, reports the National Student Clearinghouse. The strong economy has pulled adults back into the workforce. The falling birth rate has produced fewer high school graduates.

The University of Akron will phase out 80 low-enrollment degrees — 20 percent of total offerings — and add three facilities for competitive video gaming, known as esports, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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