Adam Smith observed that there "is a lot of ruin in a nation," meaning that once an institution is in place, it has inertia, continuity, a lot of hidden strengths before it finally falls. It does fall eventually, following the rule that Milton Friedman laid down that "things that cannot go on forever, won't." Yet they do hang on remarkably long, don't they? I have been hearing since the 1980s that the deficit and national debt will send America under eventually, and I do believe this is true. I am not intending in any way to suggest this is wrong. When that day comes, all of us will say "I told you so" and feel smug even as we are scrambling to find wood to burn. But we only believe that intermittently, else we would have stormed Washington in a real riot years before this one, violently kicking out not only the slightly-more-offending Democrats, but Donald Trump and his trillion dollar payouts. In fact, kicking out anyone back to...I don't know, Calvin Coolidge? But we haven't, so perhaps we only 20% believed it. Enough to be arrogant, not enough to take action.
Universities are on the ropes. They have been held aloft financially by government largess for what? 20 years, 40 years, 60 years? This is unsustainable, and state legislatures, which have significant conservative elements even in liberal states, will not continue to fund this idiocy at State U much longer, not this bite-the-hand-that-feeds-them attitude toward America and the free market and business and capitalism.
Except they have, since 1980 anyway, as I will relate shortly.
There have been predictions of the collapse of higher education, increasing in the last few years. Every year, these institutions deliver a less-valuable product at a slightly-higher price. It adds up (and also subtracts down, if you take my meaning). We are now a credential society rather than a meritocracy. Many schools on the margin have taken devastating blows from Covid. There will be continued uh.... consolidation going forward.
Yet as with a nation, so too with a college. The current system will hang on for a long while, because some schools have such an enormous cushion that they can do just about anything, and the principal of previous alumni gifts, increasing even at low returns, plus rent-seeking from government programs, added to parents' money in search of prestige and advantage, added to the real academic benefit that still manages to work its way through, will stretch out the lifespan another year, another decade, another...century? Yes, maybe. The others will go under and only people directly connected will care.
So long as credentialism rules are there are government subsidies, something like the present system will survive. It is under pressure and it will change, but don't expect to see a different world anytime soon, however many people come up with bright ideas how to fix everything.There will therefore be no pressure to stop moving left and enforcing that on others. There will be fewer positions and more people to stab you in the back.
An anecdote: My stepfather became a trustee of New Hampshire College of Accounting and Commerce in the late 1960s. My high-falutin' liberal arts friends and I looked down on this as a mere business college and called NHCAC "Cac." I did pipe down after my mother married the guy in 1966. I was obnoxious, but not crazy. (Spoiler alert: It became New Hampshire College and then Southern NH University, one of the largest online colleges in the world. Yeah, that one you see the TV ads for.) He later became CEO of a very solid, cautious mutual fund, David L Babson. He was on the NH State Republican Committee in the 60s and 70s. Archetype country-club conservative. I was liberal, but not quite communist. I learned in the early 80s that multiple professors in the Human Services wing were open Marxists. I sat down and described this to him, figuring that I was his inside source, telling him information that was being hidden from the board. He shrugged. He knew. That was how those departments ran. You couldn't get top professors who weren't Marxists. He wanted NHC to be a top college.
Well, knock me over with a feather. All that only to note how far back this goes, even with conservatives supposedly at the helm.