Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is hearing the blowback from an unfortunate college closing: Burlington College, formerly run by Sen. Sanders’ wife Jane Sanders, announced it would close its doors due to financial problems. The news triggered a pouncing reaction from conservatives (and others) who were quick to draw an analogy between Jane Sanders’ inability to save a foundering college and Sen. Sanders’ allegedly pie-in-the-sky economic proposals. The gist of much of the criticism is this: you can’t hand over the purse strings to avowed socialists; they’ll run the enterprise into the ground.
That convenient narrative reads well on first scan, but it masks a larger trend that Jane Sanders had little hope of reversing. Consider this 2015 headline from Inside Higher Ed: “Moody’s Predicts Small College Closures to Triple.” Or MarketWatch‘s “Why more U.S. colleges will go under in the next few years.” Or how about this whopper from Bloomberg: “Small U.S. Colleges Battle Death Spiral as Enrollment Drops.” And that one’s from back in April 2014. That’s right, Burlington College got swept under by a wave of small school closings that the nation’s top business publication labeled a “death spiral.” Bloomberg reports that “Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years.” Burlington College was just one of them. Schools run by avid capitalists will also crumble.