Moody’s Investor Service last week issued a report suggesting that America’s entire higher education sector — including elite institutions — faces growing economic pressures.

The report, as summarized by Inside Higher Ed, says the schools face constraints on all their revenue streams because of shifts in the economy, technology and public opinion.

With Northwestern University as Evanston’s largest employer, the economics of higher ed could have a major impact on the city’s future.

So what do you think? Take our poll, and add your comments below.

Higher ed economics and our home-town school

(We’d typically provide readers a link to the original Moody’s report, but you’d have to pay Moody’s $550 to read that, which is even more than the cost of most college textbooks.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why should NU be immune?

    Why would NU and other elite educational institutions be immune to the pain the rest of the economy has been experiencing for years? Did colleges and universities administrators truly believe they could keep raising the price tag year after year at way above the rate of inflation, and still keep filling their dorms and classrooms?

    You say "with Northwestern University as Evanston's largest employer, the economics of higher ed could have a major impact on the city's future," but what choices does Evanston have? It has none. Like every other public or private concern within our borders, the university will always do what is in its own best interests. As always, it will be Evanston's role to react to the university's decisions, as it had to react upon losing other major employers.

  2. No tears for higher education
    The cost of higher education has exploded as it has seemed there is no limit to what people will spend on it, even going into debt for years to do so. This has been a gold mine for colleges because they can make claims that their product is a necessity without having to offer any assurance of employment following graduation. They can’t lose.

    The real secret to getting value in a college education is to specialize in the hard sciences. A friend of mine has a daughter who is in post-grad microbiology, has top grades, and is getting all her expenses paid by those eager for her expertise upon graduation. There simply aren’t enough grads in engineering and technology so the demand is great, but colleges would have you believe that simply having a diploma in any area is the road to success, a claim being falsified before our eyes. Employers are happy to play along, many now requiring college degrees in any field, even those completely unrelated to the business involved. I’ve read of practicing nurses being required by hospitals to go back to school – but not necessarily in anything related to medical care.

    I am excited by the new online education sources such as Coursera offers that feature talented professors teaching to thousands at once and all over the world. The grip on education by profit making institutions paying their presidents millions of dollars and emphasizing sports over education needs to be broken. Education is a wonderful thing to be pursued all life long without being fleeced to do so.

  3. College degrees of choice

    Yes but think of the personal satisfaction of getting a degree[Major]  in Pre-Columbian music and its effect on  British culture in 1857 in the Lesbian community.  All for $50,000 a year. Jobs after college ? No worry the government will forgive loans, you can live with your parents and the government will pay for your needs.

    1. Facts about college debt

      I really wish that right-wingers would make an effort to do a little bit of studying before posting nonsense.

      First, you claim that if people can't get jobs after college, "No worry the government will forgive loans".   Not true, my friend….only well connected Wall Street banksters, defense contractors, and political contributors can stiff the government.   Even bankrupcty – which is what the 'job creators' use to walk away from debt  – will almost never get rid of Federal Student Loan debt.  Of course, you can always try  'total and permanent disability' or 'death' .

      And then there is this nonsense about people studying topics like Feminist studies, black studies, poetry, art, or other subjects that right wingers find offensive.  It is true that those majors usually do not yield good financial returns….but if you want to look at the student debt problem, you should consider the work of for-profit schools:

      "A U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Report has delivered a scathing indictment of U.S. for-profit colleges. Among the 249-page Report’s claims is that few of the 30 for-profit colleges that the Committee investigated delivered a reasonable bang for student loan – and, thus, taxpayer-funded — buck. These colleges include publicly traded for-profit stalwarts such as American Public Education (previously featured in this column), Apollo Group, Inc., Bridgepoint Education, Inc., Capella Education Company, Career Education Corporation (also featured here), Corinthian Colleges, DeVry, Inc. (previously featured), Grand Canyon Education, Inc., ITT Educational Services, Inc., Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, and Strayer Education, Inc."  [ Forbes magazine…not exactly the 'liberal media']

      Of course, these for-profit colleges – that charge higher tuition and have poor student outcomes – are opposed to any federal regulations that will cut off their gravy train of Federal subsidies…and they have allies in the Republican Party:

      "Among the industry’s principal givers are the Apollo Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix), which has contributed $259,901 to candidates; APSCU, which has given $184,500; and DeVry, Westwood College, Argosy and Art Institutes parent Education Management Corporation, and Everest parent Corinthian Colleges.

      The for-profits have given their financial support to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and nothing to Barack Obama, whose administration has been largely seen as cracking down on them".{Hechinger Report}

      But go ahead, blame it on the lesbians if it will make you happy.

  4. Liberal or Liberal Arts ?

    I guess the writer considers him/herself as a 'left winger. 

    I and many believe a good liberal arts [not just the liberal spiel, as well documented, in most colleges, is important.  Does 'left winger' believe that any conservative view points [admittedly hard to find in most colleges courses] are not to be presented.  Look at the treatment of even 'conservativve' speakers brought in—extra police have to be brought in to guard them.  Even an NU teacher was involved in throwing blood at a speaker.

    As part of a good liberal arts education is presenting the area studies that have been part of our system for years but now STEM must also be given emphasis.

    BTW His/her bringing in 'For Profits' is a red herring and not part of the argument.

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