Simon Torracinta, writing for n+1 on the impending carnage in U.S. higher ed:
The tsunami wave of the pandemic—genuine threats to the life of staff and students, skittish financial markets, massive revenue shortfall—is bearing down on a rickety edifice. […] Under the cover of the crisis, university administrators will finally undertake the massive restructuring they have dreamed of for years.
The Torracinta piece is the best-informed (and best-written) prognosis of our post-pandemic future thus far. He goes into the weeds, for example, on debt, ratings agencies, and the campus building boom—part of a broader “financialization” of higher ed. And he’s keenly aware that the shock waves will worsen the U.S. system’s already savage inequalities:
The true believers in creative destruction will revel in the carnage that is to come: this is a necessary shakeout in a bloated industry, they will say. But there is no evidence to suggest that a better outcome for anyone will follow from the incalculable damage to hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, and staff, and to the communities that rely on local campuses as economic anchors. The most likely outcome will be further stratification of an already radically unequal landscape.
Like Corey Robin (in the second-best essay to appear on this topic), Torracinta writes that the system’s stratified precariousness is the product of choices we’ve made—bad ones—over the decades. Another system, they both say, is possible.