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Politics & Policy

U.S. Universities Are Running Out of Customers

The combination of a stronger labor market and a fewer young people poses an existential challenge to higher education’s business model.

What’s to celebrate?

What’s to celebrate?

Photographer: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images North America

The University of Austin, a new academic institution created by a group of donors and intellectuals unhappy about the increasingly left-wing tilt of Anglophone academia, was unveiled last week.  Many faculty at existing universities, including several who are not especially left-wing, were unimpressed.

This is hardly surprising, and not just for political reasons. Incumbents do not generally welcome new entrants to a market. And the core challenge facing U.S. colleges and universities is economic: An increasingly robust labor market is now competing with them for a dwindling number of young people.