America’s Small Colleges Were Already Hurting Pre-Covid. Things Are About To Get Worse.

There was history underfoot at Vermont’s Marlboro College. Tucked away in the Green Mountains, the nonprofit institution founded at the end of World War II held its first graduation in 1948. Robert Frost read a poem at the ceremony and Life Magazine printed a picture of its lone alum: a former rifleman named Hugh Mulligan who spent the years after the war hobnobbing in Paris with the likes of Picasso and studied Shakespeare in operatic form. 

Mulligan died in 2008. And now Marlboro is gone too, shuttered after this year’s spring semester following years of fiscal turmoil. The bucolic 533-acre campus was sold for $1.725 million in cash and debt, plus operating expenses—a sum reportedly “far below the property’s assessed value.”

It’s hardly alone. At least a dozen independent, regional colleges are on the brink of collapse—mostly in the northeast—and all buckling from the one-two punch of dwindling enrollment

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Santa Cruz County lost almost 1,000 homes to the CZU fires. Its housing crisis is now worse than ever

BOULDER CREEK, Santa Cruz County – At the top of a cul-de-sac lined with burned homes, Antonia Bradford stood before what was once her cathedral-like house, surrounded by singed redwood trees. Little was recognizable in the rubble but a charred car, a chicken coop, a butterfly-shaped chair and a bathtub.

When the CZU Lightning Complex fires ripped through the Santa Cruz Mountains six weeks ago, Bradford, her husband and five children were suddenly homeless — along with thousands of others. Her family stayed in a hotel, then with friends as they scoured for rentals, watching listings disappear and prices rise.

“It’s pretty wild, it’s pretty bad,” Bradford said. “Housing has been a huge issue in Santa Cruz County for quite some time now. Right now it’s a supply-and-demand situation and people raising prices so high it’s pushing people off the mountain.”

When lightning sparked the CZU fires in mid-August, around

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