The number of college-age young people is predicted to fall by more than 15 percent within the next decade. The northeastern United States, with a disproportionate share of colleges and universities, is expected to be hardest hit, while areas with fewer schools but a growing population, like the mountain West, may actually see increases in student demand.

These conclusions were reported in a recent article published in The Hechinger Report, a foundation-financed news website covering education.

The report states that elite institutions may do well during an overall downturn in student demand, but regional four-year colleges that serve local students are expected to lose more than 11 percent of their students, from 1.43 million in 2012 to 1.27 million in 2029. Elite institutions are less likely to be affected because their niche is small — fewer than 200,000 undergraduate students over all — and they benefit from the enthusiasm of immigrants (and their children) for brand-name institutions with international reputations.

Moody’s Investors Service is predicting an upturn in closures of private colleges, according to the article.

The potential effects on theological education are obvious — and daunting. Fewer undergraduates will almost certainly translate into fewer graduate students in theology, unless seminaries and theological schools continue to broaden their efforts at student recruitment. And it may also follow that theological schools with larger endowments, or those with stable external financial support, are better able to survive than schools that are more dependent on tuition revenue.

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