It would be easy to blame the collapse of the humanities on the price of college, but it probably would have happened anyway, only perhaps more slowly. I predict that we're probably going to keep reading articles like this for the next few years, all bemoaning the fall of a rich academic tradition of days past, that probably never existed. After all - Confessions of an American Scholar was published fifty years ago - and yet it predicts accurately what we're seeing today - that it isn't possible to sustain a field of study that's evolved towards a process where professors publishing papers about obscure writers that are only read by other professors who publish papers about the same obscure writer.
What's most powerful in all of these essays isn't what's being said, though - it's what isn't being said. What's missing from all of these articles is what we actually lose from the collapse of the humanities - because the authors themselves don't know! The humanities have been living on tradition and obscurity for so long - several generations - that any of the original value is long gone and forgotten, and all anyone can remember of it is that at some point, the goal of the humanities was to "create better thinkers" or "teach the limits of thought" or some equally uninspiring sales pitch. None of that will inspire someone to study the humanities
We're very much in a time period where all of the institutions we've built - fine arts, national parks, basic science, mass education, diplomacy, and even democracy itself are being questioned. One would think that the humanities should be the natural defense and justification for all of these institutions that make life worth living. But the Humanities, if they ever really served that purpose - haven't even tried to do so for many generations - so much that even the professors who have a great personal and financial stake in keeping the humanities alive don't remember that.
The parallel to faith is interesting as well. - it somewhat calls back to Nietzsche - who warned that now that we know that God is dead, we can no longer rely on the strength of tradition and faith to preserve our institutions, but instead need to find a new way to create and evaluate values. While the academic humanities should have likely taken up this responsibility, and researched meaning and justification and value - they mostly did the opposite of that, and relied solely on their entrenched traditions and values to save them by equating questioning the humanities with questioning the value of life itself. The problem came when someone came along and asked what the value of the humanities was, and the reply of "How dare you question us?" wasn't good enough any more, because the people asking didn't value life - or anything else - anymore. In retrospect, it's almost impressive that everything lasted as long as it did.