Colleges, pricing themselves out of relevance? (Pt 2)

This is a continuation of a post from a couple of weeks ago. In it, I opened up with some questioning on this article, which posits that the reason college costs have risen an average of about 400-ish % adjusted for inflation and financial aid since the early 80s. The authors of the aforementioned article seem to have a hard time making anything resembling a coherent argument about where all the money is now going and mostly stick to saying that teaching is an “artisanal” endeavor like banking and health care and that, as such, it must not be looked at against the prices of consumer goods and the like that have benefited from huge increases in efficiency and so forth. Without even getting into the fact that most prices of consumer goods, save for electronics, have risen right along with inflation (the authors, to my reading, seem to imply that such things have dramatically fallen in price without really saying as much), I attempted previously to take issue with what I could find to argue with in their article (much of it seems to just be of an “it’s okay, take our word for it, you just need more access to credit” sort of vibe). Without further recapping of all that, I am going to try and discover a little more about what has and hasn’t changed in the cost structure of a college education.

Here are some culprits that come up again and again. I will rattle them off and then just go through and try to present what I can find on each:

1) Increased staffing, particularly in non-teaching positions

2) Greatly increased spending on new buildings, amenities

3) Attempts to burnish a school’s image as a selective, desirable school through price signaling (aka just charging more)

4) All of the above being stoked and greatly facilitated by a credit bubble in college loans

5) Declining support from state governments

Let’s dig into these and see what there is to see.

1) Increased staffing.

This seems like a little bit of a red herring, and it seems to be one of the things least avidly proposed in the universe of rising tuition villians. It is hard to get too worked up about human capital being thrown at students. A NY times piece is where I came across the most comprehensive look at this trend.

Over the last two decades, colleges and universities doubled their full-time support staff while enrollment increased only 40 percent, according to a new analysis…

During the same period, the staff of full-time instructors, or equivalent personnel, rose about 50 percent, while the number of managers increased slightly more than 50 percent.

Neither the report nor outside experts on college affordability went so far as to argue that the increase in support staff was directly responsible for spiraling tuition. Most experts say that the largest driver of tuition increases has been the decline in state financing for higher education.

Much more on that down the post. It goes on,

In the 20-year period, the report found, the greatest number of jobs added, more than 630,000, were instructors — but three-quarters of those were part-time. Converted to full-time equivalents, those resulted in a total of 939,00 teaching jobs, up from 614,000 in 1987.

The largest number of full-time jobs added, more than 278,000, were for support staffs, and grew to more than half a million positions in 2007, from 292,000 in 1987. Colleges also added some 65,000 management positions, almost all of them full time; all told, they had 185,000 managers in 2007, up from about 120,000 managers 20 years earlier.

“Colleges have altered the composition of their work force by steadily increasing the number of managerial positions and support/service staff, while at the same time disproportionately increasing the number of part-time staff that provides instruction,” the report said. “Meanwhile, employee productivity relative to enrollment and degrees awarded has been relatively flat in the midst of rising compensation.”

Chalk that last bit up to the authors of the Forbes report and their assertion that instruction is an “artisanal” pursuit. At any rate, this water seems pretty shallow.

2) Greatly increased spending on new buildings, amenities

This issue seems to have some traction. Here are a few examples. From a recent NY Times piece aptly titled “Share of College Spending for Recreation Is Rising” (which does expand a bit on the large increase in non-teaching staff mentioned above as well),

…the trend toward increased spending on nonacademic areas prevailed across the higher education spectrum, with public and private, elite and community colleges increasing expenditures more for student services than for instruction, the report said.

The student services category can include spending on career counseling and financial aid offices, but also on intramural athletics and student centers.

“This is the country-clubization of the American university,” said Richard K. Vedder, a professor at Ohio University who studies the economics of higher education. “A lot of it is for great athletic centers and spectacular student union buildings. In the zeal to get students, they are going after them on the basis of recreational amenities.”

On average, spending on instruction increased 22 percent over the decade at private research universities, about the same as tuition, but 36 percent for student services and 36 percent for institutional support, a category that includes general administration, legal services and public relations, the study said.

At public research universities, spending for student services rose 20 percent over the decade, compared with 10 percent for instruction.

From a 2009 Money piece (which provides a good overview of a lot of the problems stemming from the tuition explosion from strained family finances to lower completion rates to increasing student loan defaults), private institutions in particular seem to be binging on facilities, which becomes a vicious cycle when you are building to justify your tuition, but your tuition is increasing because you are building, etc:

If colleges were spending most of their money on initiatives that improve the quality of education for students, you might regard price hikes running at two to four times the rate of inflation as a necessary evil. But spending on palatial dorms, state-of-the-art fitness centers and a panoply of gourmet dining options? Maybe not.

Yet that’s precisely what many schools are doing to attract students – engaging in a luxury arms race, fueled by the wealth of such elite institutions as Harvard and Yale.

Sure, they’re also putting funds into cutting class sizes and hiring top professors. But they’re spending even more on building Hogwarts-style dorms with mahogany casement windows of leaded glass (Princeton’s newest $136 million student residence); installing 35-foot climbing walls and hot tubs big enough for 15 people (Boston University); providing multiple eateries with varied cuisines and massive fitness and recreation centers (too many schools to name).

“There’s a lot of competition from other colleges,” says Steven Knapp, president of George Washington University. “In today’s consumer culture, parents and students expect a certain level of comfort – and they compare the amenities.”

Speaking of George Washington University, let’s segue into:

3) Attempts to burnish a school’s image as a selective, desirable school through price signaling (aka just charging more)

This trend actually seems to be shockingly real and also rather shockingly acknowledged by a number of administrators. The driver seems to often be the quest for a high ranking in the U.S. News and World Report college ratings (which was discussed in the previous post as well). George Washington U appears as the poster child in this trend expanding its facilities and exploding its tuition in the quest for perceived exclusivity. From Daniel Luzer’s excellent article “The Prestige Racket”

After decades of offering a low-cost education, GW took a sharp turn upmarket in the late 1980s under the presidency of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The university went on a high-class building spree, financed by a dizzying series of tuition increases. When Trachtenberg took office, undergraduate tuition was $14,000—below average for a private, four-year college. By the time he left in 2007, it had mushroomed to $39,000 a year (or, including fees and room and board, a whopping $50,000)—making GW the most expensive school in the United States.What Trachtenberg understood was that perception is reality in higher education—and perception can be bought. “You can get a Timex or a Casio for $65 or you can get a Rolex or a Patek Philippe for $10,000. It’s the same thing,” Trachtenberg says. The former president gambled that students who couldn’t quite get into the nation’s most exclusive colleges—and who would otherwise overlook a workmanlike school like the old GW—would flock to a university that at least had a price tag and a swank campus like those of the Ivy Leagues. “It serves as a trophy, a symbol,” he says. “It’s a sort of token of who they think they are.”

What’s amazing is that this strategy worked. During Trachtenberg’s tenure, applications for undergraduate admission increased from 6,000 to 20,000 a year, GW students’ average SAT scores increased by 200 points, the endowment increased to almost $1 billion—still quite low for GW’s size, but higher than the $200 million nest egg Trachtenberg inherited—and the university created five new schools.

Trachtenberg’s cynical appraisal seems to be borne out in the 2008 paper “Getting on the Front Page: Organizational Reputation, Status Signals, and the Impact of U.S. News and World Report on Student Decisions” by Nicholas A. Bowman and Michael N. Bastedo. In it, the authors write:

Generally speaking, people are inclined to believe that a more expensive price tag is associated with better quality goods and services. Similarly, students and parents might use tuition as a reflection of prestige or quality. In support of this view, nine of the ten colleges with the highest tuition in 2006—George Washington University, University of Richmond, Sarah Lawrence College, Kenyon College, Vassar College, Bucknell University, Columbia University, Wesleyan University, and Trinity College—were consistently ranked in the top 50 during this study. To date, it is unclear whether the high costs contribute to perceptions of prestige or vice versa, but the asso- ciation certainly exists. Moreover, students and parents might also attempt to gauge institutional quality through their perceptions of instruction and learning opportunities. Although we do not have direct measures for perceived instructional quality, instructional expenditures may serve as a proxy for resources allocated toward this goal.

Indeed, changes in tuition and fees and instructional expenditures predict changes in admissions indicators, particularly among liberal arts colleges and the lower half of top-tier institutions. Specifically, among all liberal arts colleges, increases in instructional expenditures contribute to higher average SAT scores, lower acceptance rates, and more applications, in the following year. Among institutions ranked 26th–50th, tuition seems to serve as an indicator of prestige…That is, when controlling for the average tuition increase over time among other factors, an additional $1,000 increase in tuition leads to a 3.6-point gain in SAT scores, a 1.2% reduction in acceptance rates, and 0.5% increase in yield.

More from the Money article quoted earlier on price signaling and its payoffs:

In 2000, for example, Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. boosted tuition and fees by 17.6%. The following year the school received nearly 200 more applications than the year before, and within eight years the freshman class had grown 56%.

Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. had a similar experience in 2005 when it hiked its tuition rate by 29% to $22,000. The college in effect gave back much of the increase as financial aid or merit scholarships to 99% of the students; still, it seemed that tuition was as high as at places like the University of Richmond. Since then the number of incoming freshmen has increased by nearly 40%.

Says Hendrix College president Timothy Cloyd: “We are competing with schools that charge more, so it was hard to convince people that we were as good as our rivals when we charged so much less.”

A recent article from the uber-ratings arbiter itself provides a nice transition into the next problem:

4) All of the above being stoked and greatly facilitated by a credit bubble in college tuition lending

The US News article examines the point where easy access to credit and spiraling tuition costs beg a comparison between the perceived value-added to a career (let alone a life) and the debt burden acquired. From the piece:

Escalating tuition prices in a troubled market, spurred onward by generous student loans and students who are not fully committed to the profession, is a dangerous bubble that may well burst, Indiana University—Bloomington’s Henderson says.

“I’m trying to separate the value of the legal education from the signaling value that’s driving the bubble,” Henderson said. “The trends are clearly unsustainable.”

Schools like Henderson’s Indiana are retooling parts of the legal education. That institution, for example, has implemented a team-based first-year curriculum and professors are strengthening relationships with employers, Henderson says. Arizona State University law school has launched the Legal Education in the Future Tense curriculum, which includes 25 new initiatives that aim to “not be like every law school has been since the 1800’s,” says Dean Paul Schiff Berman. ASU law students can participate in hands-on clinics, public policy think tank experiences and more global opportunities, Berman says.

“I think the only solution to this is to make sure that [if] we’re charging $150,000, the skills that we impart have to map onto the job demand,” Henderson says.

In Andrew Gillen’s recent paper “A Tuition Bubble?” from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the author compares the unprecedented increases in tuition rates to the upwardly spiraling housing prices of the last decade and finds many similar causes and effects playing out:

The first and most obvious similarity between higher education and the housing market is that prices were rapidly increasing in both. Conventional wisdom holds that tuition is rising because schools “need” the money to educate their students better, and students are willing to pay whatever schools charge, increasingly with the help of government loan programs. As figure 2 shows, real (inflation-adjusted) tuition has more than doubled over the last thirty years at both public and private institutions.
The sustained and widespread increases in tuition indicate that they are, like the rise in housing prices, a rational response to the circumstances faced by market participants. Schools charge ever more because they can, and students and their families pay ever more because the earnings differential between college– and high school–educated workers leads them to believe that a college degree is a good investment.
Another similarity is a heavy reliance on loans to pay for both home purchases and college. While loans are the dominant source of funds for home purchases, the average loan for students attending four- year schools now accounts for just over half of annual tuition charges, as figure 3 shows.
There are additional parallels between the housing market and student loans. Beyond the obvious criminal and predatory behavior of some of the lenders, two of the main factors that caused trouble in the housing market, a lack of lending standards and artificially low interest rates, are both present when it comes to student loans, particularly those loans obtained through federal programs, primarily Direct Loans and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

The main argument in this report is that lax lending standards and artificially low interest rates for student loans exacerbate tuition increases because they increase the ability of too many students to pay. This then encourages schools to raise their tuition more than they otherwise would. A vicious cycle—or virtu- ous, depending on where you are within it—soon develops. The first step in the cycle is an attempt by the government to increase access to higher education by providing subsidies for it…But because subsidies are too widely available, combined with some unique characteristics of higher education, schools see a general increase in the ability of the student body to pay and increase their tuition charges, which is the second step in the cycle. The schools’ decisions are made much easier because higher education is arguably the only industry for which the government facilitates price discrimination—charging different students different amounts for the same service. Students are required to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be eligible for government aid. The FAFSA information, including intimate financial details of students and their families, is then provided to schools. Such information allows schools to determine each student’s ability to pay with a good deal of precision, which makes the task of price discrimination much easier. The government’s encouragement of such price discrimination by providing FAFSA information should be seriously questioned but will not be addressed here. The relevance for this argument is that schools see an increase in the ability to pay and raise tuition. The higher overall price of college reduces access. Governments see the reduced access and offer larger and more widely available subsidies, thus starting the cycle over again.

This is a VERY REAL, good old-fashioned catch 22. It points to some major problems with institutional structure and incentives with large non-profits and the way they may be run by people like Stephan Joel Trachtenberg, “executives” of the educational sector for whom, unable to show giant profits, are relegated to showing giant growth in the institution.

Says Ron Ehrenberg, an economics professor at Cornell University and author of “Tuition Rising”: “For nonprofits the goal is to raise all the money you can, then spend it.”

The sad part for students is that once you let the genie that is turning a $14k education into a $40k education out of the bottle, it’s not very likely that you will ever get it back in again. In such cases, the lack of a leader’s recognition that their most important duty is as fiduciary for the future generations of citizens needing an affordable education, tracks very closely with the politician leasing off decades of infrastructure revenue because they know they’ll be gone when the dust settles or the bank trader who knows that they’ll be yachting in the Seychelles when the toxic garbage they knowingly created explodes. These are things that are making a mess out of this country and these messes will not be easy to clean up.

At this point, I’m inclined to attribute about 30 to 40% of the tuition increases we see to the above points (this is an admittedly unscientific estimate. If it was easy, someone would have it all graphed out). However, in this writer’s humble opinion, it’s mostly a matter of:

5) Declining budget support from state governments.

On this trend, it’s not hard to find evidence of such a decline. The irony here is that many of the “very serious people” making the tough calls on cutting funding for higher education are the very hypocrites who enjoyed tuitions that are closer to a modern student’s textbook costs than the luxury car prices they are foisting on stagnant-real-wage Americans today. Let’s dig into this one:

An article in The Daily Tarheel, the independently-run student paper of the University of NC-Chapel Hill, contrasts the state of North Carolina funding of it’s flagship state university, still nearly 25% of its budget, with the flagging state support for a number of other prestigious public schools:

Universities have begun to move away from UNC’s model in the past decade, a trend that could be accelerating as states face hard economic realities.

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor began operating with high tuition and almost independently of its state after declining state revenues compromised its funding.

The University of Virginia started pulling away in 2004. The school, faced with a dire state budget situation, was not willing to compromise its quality and sought other means of support.

A law passed in 2005 gave the school almost complete control over its finances and operations.

It now functions with little state control — a trade-off that means less state support and higher tuition.

State funding makes up only 6.9 percent of its budget. Almost a quarter of UNC’s budget is state appropriations.

Now the University of California-Berkeley, the golden child of public higher education that is consistently the highest-ranked public university in the country, is looking to move away from UNC’s model.

UC-Berkeley’s woes are further detailed in this article from the Daily Californian, another independent, student-run paper in Berkeley, CA:

The board has approved resident fee increases 22 times since 1975, half of which were by more than 10 percent. During the same period, fees were also lowered three times.

UC officials have consistently pointed to the historic decline in state funding, particularly a $637.1 million decrease for 2009-10, as the impetus for higher fees.

As a share of UC core funds, which are comprised of state funds, student fees, endowment payouts and other sources of income, state funding has dropped by about 30 percent in the period between 1985 and 2006, according to report written by the UC Academic Council in 2006.

The report’s figures indicate that large dips in state funding occurred during tough economic times, such as those in the early 1990s and 2000s.

“It is important to note that, despite some (economic) recovery, the state contribution as a share of UC core funds in the early 2000s did not recover to its level of the early 1990s,” the report states.

The University of Illinois system is quick to point out, on their own website, the large decline in funding support. Additionally, the state of Illinois is actually in significant arrears on the existing financial commitments it has made to the system. Ugh…

The fiscal 2011 operating budget for the University of Illinois system is about $4.8 billion, a $178 million (3.9 percent) increase over fiscal 2009. It includes state of Illinois general revenue funds of $697.1 million.The state’s 2011 operating appropriation reflects the loss of $45.5 million in one-time federal stimulus funds (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)…

As of January 20, 2011, the state was more than $400 million in arrears to the University in general revenue funds for fiscal 2011. An online chart provides the most current information.

The Illinois legislature passed and the governor signed a 2011 fiscal year state budget bill that provides general revenue funding to the University of Illinois level $46.3 million less than the fiscal 2010 appropriation for the institution ($697.1 million).

Here is the chart mentioned above. Notice the difference here between even appropriated and billed amounts versus the utterly dismal collected amounts. Not a pretty picture.

The Daily Illini, in Champaign, IL goes on:

the state slashed funding for the University by 6.3 percent this year and tuition payments now surpass state tax support for the first time in the University’s history.

The University is at the heart of Illinois’ economy, pumping $17 into the state’s economy for every $1 of state tax support received! Clearly, feeding the University a healthy and steady diet enhances the economic well-being of the state.

Yet, state legislators don’t view the University as a priority, even though the numbers suggest otherwise. They don’t deem college students as a dominant political force, and for the most part, they’ve been proven right.

Echoing this theme of a state legislature failing to properly account for the value of higher education, an Editor at the Daily Texan (at the University of Texas-Austin) writes:

President Powers noted that 41 percent of the state’s savings from this past year’s 5-percent budget reduction came from higher education, even though higher education comprises only 11 percent of the state’s overall budget. Additionally, the percentage of UT’s funding that comes from the state has decreased from 47 percent in 1984 to 14 percent today.Since 1990, state support for UT has grown annually by only 1.9 percent, a rate that cannot even keep up with inflation. UT’s funding per student has long lagged behind the rates of peer institutions, such as UCLA and UNC-Chapel Hill. The University has not been properly funded for years and now the Legislature wants to cut that paltry funding even more.

So, yes. I reckon there is an issue here. Such decreases could certainly lead to a growth in tuition as state legislators and govern0rs have come to look at higher education increasingly as just another special interest group without great lobbyists. Says James Kaplan, former Chairman of the State Board of Higher Education from 2003 to 2007 in Illinois:

As chairman…Kaplan oversaw the state’s public universities through the rough fiscal stretch they’ve endured. He fears the effects are now becoming apparent.

“Up until now, I think the administrative cuts cut into fat and not into bone,” he said. “At this stage, you’re cutting into bone.”

For faculty, cutting bone means teaching classes of literally hundreds of students, and not always under the best of conditions, Burton said.

“In 2005 I taught a class of over 700 students in Lincoln Hall, and literally in the middle of a class a rat ran across the stage,” he said. “Tiles fell off the wall.”

Kaplan says he shares the blame for the stagnant funding of the past few years because he failed to convince Blagojevich that higher education should be as high a priority as primary education.

It’s easy to see the receding position higher education takes in our increasingly stingy spending on a decaying capital stock, both in terms human capital and infrastructure. Particularly with the virulent antiintellectual attitude that permeates American life currently (To be fair, this problem seems to be within universities as well as without. See this and ESPECIALLY THIS.), spending to support this nation’s promise of affordable higher-education is just another victim of doctrinaire politicians, even (or perhaps especially) those who profess their fondness for the cost/benefit analysis views of the business world. To reiterate from the Daily Illini piece quoted above:

The University is at the heart of Illinois’ economy, pumping $17 into the state’s economy for every $1 of state tax support received! Clearly, feeding the University a healthy and steady diet enhances the economic well-being of the state.

If those numbers don’t warm the cockles of a politician’s heart…wait, who are we kidding. Politicians are long gone from the world of the real, where investments pay off down the road. They have their lifetime pensions and cozy lobbyist sinecures whether the trains run on time 10 years from now or not. I’ll leave you all with a long quote from the late State Senator from California, Albert S. Rodda. I just stumbled across him researching this post and boy, does he hit the spot for someone starved for a thinking (wo)man’s politician. The whole post is eerily prescient on many issues from the unenlightened nature of a GDP-centric economy which leaves millions in poverty, to the onset of large-scale genetic engineering influencing our lives in myriad ways, to the general alienation from our environment and one another. One of his crusades, though, was keeping the UC system true to its mission of providing a tuition-free, high quality education to all Californians who wanted one. This was already well under attack by Reagan in the early 70s. Rodda, in this essay (which is thought to be a draft for potential future use that never saw a reading) speaks at length on both the challenges that face higher education and the challenges of being a politician defending a vigorous and truly independent institution from the very forces of anti-intellectualism and reaction that are amassed against it today. To Rodda:

The “establishment” is devoid of a genuine capacity for self-evaluation; the authority of the conventional wisdom remains largely unquestioned; and the propensity to apply materialistic criteria in therefore, that a will to create a more humane, person-centered society can develop into a meaningful force in contemporary society.

Incremental shifts in the premises and values of a civilization sometimes occur, but major adjustments occur seldom, if ever. And yet, if one believes that the drift of things is to make man irrelevant, one must force a dialogue which challenges the adequacy of the status quo—its values and goals.

Traditionally, it has been the responsibility of higher education to provide such a dialogue. Hopefully it will continue to do so. And, of course, if it does, the dialogue must not be mere pretense; it must be a genuine and searching analysis of basic premises, principles, goals and institutions of contemporary life.

If such is to be the character of the intellectual probing of the quality of our society, the institutions of higher education must be free and independent; otherwise, their explorations will have no other capability than that of providing an intellectual reinforcement of the present arrangements.

This presents the academy of learning with two problems: first, of course, to achieve a significant degree of academic freedom, and, second, to utilize its intellectual freedom to produce a new synthesis of human understanding and aspirations.

Only if this is accomplished will higher education contribute significantly to a change in the directional movement of society, of technology, and, therefore, of the human race.

As a politician, I have a relation to the first problem—that of academic freedom; and, you in higher education, private and public, have a relation to the second—that of the integrity of the academic community.

My task, as a legislator, is to preserve the freedom of higher education to explore truth. This is a difficult assignment and its difficulty will increase with the intensity of the conflict between emergent values directed toward a restructuring of society and the “operative values” of a well established system.

Perhaps, it may not be accomplished, since it is very questionable, in my view, that the outer community or the “town” will be so permissive toward academia. Higher education appears to have become such an integral part of the status quo that it is almost nonsensical to talk of its independence or autonomy. Academic freedom can be expected, therefore, to survive in the coming critical years in form, but not in substance. Scholars may be allowed to discuss “yes-yeses,” but not “no-noes”; otherwise, budgets will be cut, faculty dismissed, personnel made subject to ideological litmus tests, which identify right from wrong thinking; the social sciences and the humanities minified within the world of learning; science and “skill and service training” given even more prestigious status; the faculty diminished in influence, and trouble-making or non-conformist students disciplined.

The “town” holds to a strong feeling of “ownership” toward academia, and the manifestations of this possessiveness are clearly set forth in a legislator’s correspondence, in the character of the legislation designed to cure campus disorder, and in the posture and attitude of executive leadership at all levels of government.

The public mind evaluates the university on a scale of imperfectability inversely proportionate to its conformity to the conventional wisdom, the requirements of law and order, and the status quo. Any propensity on the part of the intellectual establishment toward a pathological diagnosis of society produces an immediate “hue and cry” for legislation designed to punish, discipline, control, and even, in extreme cases, to “shut it down.”

Against the political pressures, which are a natural concomitant of a mindless public response to “campus radicalism and divergency,” all politicians who stand for academic freedom do so at their political peril. During times of social stress, when there is a conflict between those who would use their minds and those who would not, the elected official who supports academia is considerably more expendable politically than is normally the case. And yet this is a vulnerability to which a thinking politician must submit if he is to protect his own integrity. This is a fact of political life in a democratic society derived from the vital importance of academic freedom, objective and honest dialogue, and freedom of speech to the formulation of social values and goals, and to the creation of an informed public opinion.

Obviously academic freedom is relative and it is weaker during a time of ideational conflict.

Viewed in this context, one would be irresponsible to assume that great success will accompany the efforts of those desirous of providing independence and freedom for the intellectual establishment. But to rush to the other extreme is quite possibly unjustified, also. If we assume, therefore, a reasonable degree of freedom to explore ideas, to define goals, to wrestle with problems of student unrest and campus turmoil, and to experiment with curricula, another question yet remains: Can academia respond appropriately? Can it make its freedom meaningful?

Frankly, I doubt that it can.

I cannot advise higher education what it should become. I would expect, however, that there should emerge some significant changes within higher education, for example:

  1. assurance that higher education research will not prostitute the ideals and values of academia;
  2. abandonment of the impulsive—almost neurotic—drive for professional academic success which seems more and more to separate the professor from the teacher and the teacher from the student, since the establishment of a viable teacher-student relationship seems less and less the road to success in academia;
  3. modification of the university curricula in order to relate it more closely to the spiritual, psychological and esthetic;
  4. involvement of the academic world in community service, not militant activism and confrontation, but rather in a constructive involvement to effect those ideals which will produce a society more idealistically motivated and less prone to produce anxiety, hopelessness, pessimism, alienation and deviant behavior;
  5. improved cross-fertilization of ideas and knowledge among the professionals within the various specialties;
  6. continuous and relevant process of self-evaluation within all areas of academia;
  7. exploration, through innovative curricula structures and new models for internal organization, of ways to improve the educational process, despite the fact that to experiment is to hazard the embarrassment of failure;
  8. exposure of the flaws in the institutional structure and value fabrics of Western civilization which lead to the pursuit of goals removed from relevance for the psychological and physiological well being of man.

Perhaps, it is asking too much to expect higher education to respond to the challenge of our times; yet a “critique” must be made, for civilization must have a capability for ongoing self- evaluation. Western civilization is predicated upon the assumption that science and technology will provide the means to utopia; higher education must advise us of the validity or invalidity of this premise.

Former President of the University of California, Clark Kerr, stated that the idea of the multiversity “ … has its reality rooted in the logic of history. It is an imperative rather than a reasoned choice among elegant alternatives.”

To the extent that this is a description of the origin of the multiversity or of higher education today, as well as an historical interpretation of its development, the expectation of human fulfillment through the fulfillment of higher education is not likely to materialize.

If higher education is so much apart of what is that it may not become the creator of what ought to be, we may find it necessary to rely upon other centers of learning—those independent of the status quo, if there are any.

That is a list to hang onto educators and administrators and legislators of the world, one for the ages.


About theunlikelyeconomist

theunlikelyeconomist is in the midst of the long slog to attain a PhD in economics.
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One Response to Colleges, pricing themselves out of relevance? (Pt 2)

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