It’s been quite the year for higher education in 2023.
The Supreme Court officially struck down affirmative action, leading institutions to reevaluate their relationship with legacy students and the nature of an “elite” institution. The fervor over U.S. News & World Report’s longstanding college rankings was called into question as institutions vie to personalize their brand to match students’ needs.
Pandemic-era emergency federal aid expired, leaving tuition-dependent institutions to think critically about how to expand their revenue streams and cut costs as student enrollment struggles to return to pre-pandemic levels.
College president tenures continued to shrink, aided by a spate of high-profile resignations in July. Three Ivy League presidents found themselves in the hot seat due to the outbreak of campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war, which sparked its own conversation on academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and free speech.
And ultimately, growing skepticism over the value of higher education has inspired colleges and universities to rejuvenate their academic course offerings and modalities to keep pace with a new generation of cost-savvy students interested in a high return on investment and flexible learning pathways.
Reflecting some of the most significant news developments in 2023, our readers at University Business gravitated toward topics reflecting issues most top-of-mind. Let’s take a look at this past year’s most-read stories. The following is in order, starting from the most trafficked.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Development Infrastructure Grant Program (RDI) announced in August offers a potential game-changer for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Eleven HBCUs with R2 status have the potential to upgrade to R1 if granted the $50 million allocation, which would go toward addressing historic funding disparities, fostering sustained growth and improving infrastructure. The boost in funding could help perpetuate future success for the lucky institution by increasing institutional visibility and reputation and thus drawing in more tuition dollars, experienced faculty and possibly philanthropy.
A new report highlights the most expensive college towns in the U.S., revealing potential challenges for students and faculty. With housing affordability a significant concern, the study by In My Area found that California dominates the list of costly college towns, with Santa Clara ranking highest, requiring residents to earn at least $70,000 for living expenses. Rent prices plateaued after a recent spike but still surged in certain California metro areas. Expensive college towns can lead to faculty inequity, hindering diversity as faculty members face financial challenges, particularly non-tenure and tenure-track faculty of color. The issue also contributes to the wave of student and faculty union strikes across higher education institutions.
With the resignation of President Thomas Hudson at the feels of a faculty no-confidence vote, Jackson State University has seen six presidents in the last 13 years. The university’s leadership instability included a president’s resignation following a prostitution sting and another’s departure due to growing financial challenges. JSU recently appointed a permanent president in Marcus Thompson.
Pressure began mounting against President Katherine Bergeron after a resigning dean’s letter was posted publicly illustrating her “bullying behaviors” and “toxic administrative culture.” President Bergeron also dismissed the dean’s advice to avoid hosting a fundraising event at a Florida venue known for its history of racism and antisemitism. As students continued to object to King’s resignation, many of the school’s departments issued statements in solidarity with students and supporting protests that led to social change, drawing the campus community into direct conflict with the school’s board of trustees. President Bergeron soon resigned.