There once was a university that like so many universities was struggling with its enrollment and finances. The university never had an endowment that was adequate for the size of its student body, and thus it was dependent on tuition revenue to cover the bulk of its instructional and other operational expenses.
As expenses inevitably increased, the interest from the university’s endowment was inadequate to cover the growing costs, and the university became even more dependent on tuition revenue. To meet expenses, the university had to increase tuition and fees; but it was not able to increase real dollar scholarship assistance, thus passing off most of the increased costs to the students.
With higher tuition and higher fees, fewer students were able to afford the price of attending the university. Over the period of a decade, enrollment declined precipitously. New programs were created to attract new students, but there were costs to starting new programs and the new enrollment in those programs could not make up for the losses in other areas. New strategies were put in place to recruit students whose families could pay the higher tuition and fees, but the university’s financial difficulties and deferred maintenance made it difficult to attract students from more wealthy families. Enrollment continued to decline.
During this time of the university’s struggles, leaders of the institution were sometimes heard saying that “the university didn’t have any problems that a billion dollar endowment couldn’t solve.” Interest from such an endowment could easily sustain the university financially for generations to come.
One day, as if an answer to a prayer, the university was given over $1 billion by an oil tycoon whom the university had been cultivating for over a decade. This donor had given significant gifts before, but this gift was the game changer. The university’s future was now secured. Enrollment increased, the faculty and staff at the university grew in quantity and quality, and the university steadily rose in the national college rankings. The university’s time for flourishing had finally arrived.
About two generations later, the university closed its doors; its enrollment decimated by the massive human die off caused by the climate change induced economic and ecological collapse that so many universities dependent on fossil fuel cash and other corporate donations did so little to address.