Managing Hard Times: How Five Colleges Survived the Great Depression

 
9781931778046: Managing Hard Times: How Five Colleges Survived the Great Depression
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"History doesn't repeat itself; at best it sometimes rhymes." (attributed to Mark Twain) Today, we hear a cadence that reminds of that period known as the Great Depression. Years of speculative fever, financial "innovation", conspicuous consumption and a widening disparity in incomes between the wealthy and everyone else come to an abrupt inflection point. Assets like stocks, homes and businesses lose a large portion of their value. Bankruptcies of families and businesses climb dramatically. Jobs disappear and unemployment, even by optimistic government reckoning, moves ever higher. What had been seen as wisdom suddenly is revealed as folly. Yet, as Twain reminds us, events are unlikely to unfold exactly as they did in that earlier era. This book follows the struggles of five private colleges, Campbell College, Davidson College, Lees-McRae College, Louisburg College and Wake Forest College through the Great Depression of the 1930's and examines the strategies they adopted to survive that grim decade. Charitable donations, critical to the operating budgets of most, began to decline, and did not recover to pre-Depression levels for many years. Endowment income at best remained stable; for many, it also declined sharply. Student enrollment threatened to collapse as families began to feel the pinch of the Depression. Under these circumstances, the option to increase tuition, room and board costs that colleges had employed for the last decade was not realistic. What to do? How to survive the hard times? There was no one answer to these questions, but survival strategies were developed that allowed these colleges to come through the Great Depression and remain viable to the present day. While this work focuses on the survival of colleges, the strategies that they employed to survive and prosper are general enough to prove useful to today's institutions and organizations that face similar challenges in our current "Great Recession".

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Gene Spears
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Gene Spears
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