A Dream Derailed? College Closures Research and Policy Implications

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with generous support provided by Arnold Ventures, are undertaking a new multiyear research endeavor to quantify the impacts of college closure on student persistence and completion.

According to a recent analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, even before the pandemic, over the previous five years, an average of 20 campuses closed each month, leaving around 500,000 students (mostly working adults, low-income students, and students of color) affected. Yet, little is known about what happens to students after a campus closes.

Leveraging a student-level longitudinal dataset constructed by the Clearinghouse, SHEEO and the Research Center will use descriptive analyses, advanced data visualization techniques, and quasi-experimental research designs to examine what happens to students post-closure. Rigorously and thoroughly quantifying the impacts of college closure on subsequent postsecondary outcomes will inform what has been a contentious policy debate around appropriate regulatory action meant to prevent, prepare for, and respond to college closures in a pandemic during which more closures are expected to occur. 


The first paper in this series sets out to quantify the impacts of college closures on students’ subsequent postsecondary enrollment and completion outcomes and to identify the policy levers states may have to support students who experience a closure. 

Read the Full Report


Interactive: Student Outcomes After College Closure – Interactive Sankey diagram that allows for a deeper dive on student outcomes after experiencing college closure. The tool offers advanced filtering and comparison abilities while maintaining student privacy. 

Appendix C. Supplemental Tables – Supporting data from every figure in the report in a usable format as well as additional analyses of interest.

Additional Context for College Closures – Unique data collection used to create the distinction between abrupt and orderly closures. 

Project Contact: Rachel Burns, senior policy analyst