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Small Private Colleges Are In Crisis

These are agonizing times for small, private colleges. Enrollment is falling. Debts are rising. Tuition is high as it can go. And since the financial crisis, schools have been shuttering more often than normal.

For the moment, forget about elite schools Amherst or Wesleyan (they’re doing fine, anyway). Instead, consider places like Ashland University in Ohio, which Moody’s has called a default risk. These institutions often cater to iffy students and produce mediocre graduation rates. But because they don’t have much in the way of endowments, they tend to charge high tuition, and leave undergraduates saddled with debts that simply might not be worthwhile. Only 59 percent graduate after six years. And so, according to Payscale, it offers one of the lowest returns on investment of any college in the country.