EDUCATION

Bad Bets

The High Cost of Failing Programs
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How Many New Programs Attract Students?

Every new program launched by a college or other institution in higher education is a bet that the idea will resonate with students and grow enrollments—and too many of these bets don’t pay off.

Roughly half of the programs that first graduated students in the 2012-13 or 2013-14 academic years reported five or fewer conferrals in 2018, according to an analysis of federal data by Emsi Burning Glass (now Lightcast). Some 30% reported no 2018 conferrals at all. In other words, not a single student that year marched in commencement to receive a degree from these new programs.

Not every program will produce large numbers of graduates, in the same way that not all products succeed in the market and not all movies become summer blockbusters. But the stakes are high for US higher education, which is in an unprecedented financial crisis that was brewing even before COVID-19 struck.

Bad Bets: The High Cost of Failing Programs in Higher Education
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