Inside Higher Ed's Joshua Kim attempts to study the demise of Ringling Barnum.
The circus, it turns out, is afflicted with the same cost disease as is higher education.

The circus can only scale so much before the circus tent gets too big, making it impossible to see the clowns.

When discussing why the circus was closing, the billionaire owner and CEO Ringling cited the show’s 12-minute tiger act:

“Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes..”

Substitute “19 year old” for “3 year old”, and “lectures” for “tigers”, you can see that our higher ed challenges are not all that different from that of the circus.

How can we in higher ed avoid the fate of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth”?

First, we should definitely avoid using exotic live animals in our teaching or residential activities.  The cost of transporting lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas between shows proved too expensive for Ringling Brothers.  We should learn from their experience.
It was the elephants they didn't transport that hurt retention, not the camels they did transport.

I leave it to others to address the "cost disease" or nonexistent attention spans or the false economies of student-credit-hours-per-faculty, or dumbing down the curriculum.

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