When colleges shut down in orderly ways and with adequate advance public notice, the closures do not usually make the news or blow up on social media. Sudden closures, however, such as the ones we have seen at for-profit chains like The Art Institutes, Argosy, and Virginia College, or nonprofits like Mount Ida and Dowling College, are a reminder of how damaging an unexpected closure can be: in the worst cases, students were shut out of classes, veterans lost housing, and million-dollar funds were suddenly found missing.
State regulators are often the first ones on the scene when a college suddenly shuts its doors. This week, the U.S. Department of Education will be meeting privately with these first responders to discuss what can be done to address the problem more effectively. College accrediting agencies are also reportedly attending the meeting. This commentary provides analysis of various types of harm wrought by sudden school closures, and offers a framework for a soup-to-nuts transformation of how regulators approach the problem of college closures.