On the Brink of Disaster? an article in August 2009 by David J. Koon on the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy website explores issues facing private higher education. Koon cites statistics from the Department of Education’s Digest of Educational Statistics indicating that only 185 independent four-year institutions shut down between 1977 and 2007. He calculates about an 89 percent survival rate over three decades and comments that most of those that closed were small, relatively unknown colleges with enrollments of fewer than 100 students.
Koon cites an interesting paper, "Why do colleges fail? An analysis of college and university closings and mergers, 1975-2005," written by Stephen R. Porter and Trina J. Ramirez of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. These researchers started with the private colleges listed in the 1973 Carnegie classification of institutions and then explored why 10% of these institutions no longer existed as stand-alone institutions by 2005. The work of Porter and Ramirez challenges some commonly held perceptions used to explain why certain institutions are in difficulty.