In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, room, and board. Six years later more than two hundred colleges charged that amount. What happened between 2003 and 2009 was the start of the recession. By driving down endowments and giving tax-starved states a reason to cut back their support for higher education, the recession put new pressure on colleges and universities to raise their price. When our current period of slow economic growth will end is anybody’s guess, but even when it does end, colleges and universities will certainly not be rolling back their prices. These days, it is not just the economic climate in which our colleges and universities find themselves that determines what they charge and how they operate; it is their increasing corporatization. If corporatization meant only that colleges and universities were finding ways to be less wasteful, it would be a welcome turn of events. But an altogether different process is going on
The “edifice complex” did not fade until the 1990s, and there have been at least two growth paradigms since then, both of them linked to the high-wage knowledge economy. One was the “creative city,” which Richard Florida popularized, and it revolved around recruitment of creative talent. This model was much cheaper than shelling out large subsidies for sports stadiums or to corporate investors—a few bike trails, some fair-trade coffee shops, and the semblance of an art scene (to attract the all-important gay population). But it did open up a new circuit of debt-financing for the urban growth machine–student loans. After all, student debt is what underpins the supply of the educated workforce in a “creative city.”University of Chicago Works On Its Neighborhood - “It’s enlightened self-interest for us,” Mr. Greene said. “We’ve always been very competitive when it comes to providing a great intellectual community. But we found there was something missing when we looked at the quality of life for students and faculty who are used to the kinds of amenities you find in places New York, Boston and Palo Alto.”
So, finance is a key problem in higher education because without it we cannot do high end research, advance knowledge, nor teach future minds. But we also cannot carve out the areas of highly competitive activity that puts us at an advantage as UK Plc against our rivals. Should universities retain their position as a state-sponsored skunkworks, and what level of control is required for that to work?Could Dismantling the Submerged State Surrounding Student Debt Pay for Free Colleges?
Often the solutions are bound to be worse than the problems. Here’s one reason why: The administrators themselves, full of models of excellence derived from business (encouraged by government when the Republicans are in power), schools of teacher education (which should be abolished or keep to themselves), and political correctness (encouraged by government when the Democrats are in power), demand quantitative, measurable, assessable solutions to tricky and often “goes with the territory” problems. A problem with techno-democracy is that it tends to harness everything to the imperatives of technology or “the measurable.” There’s more than some irony in addressing techno-democratic excesses with techno-democratic methods.
Universities, particularly public research universities, have outstanding faculty. They usually have support staff to supplement those faculty members and to advise students and various other tasks. Universities also typically have highly respected Deans, Provosts and Presidents that are well published in their field and are not averse to asking for money from legislators and donors. What most public universities do not have, and they so desperately need at all levels, are business managers.The Future Of Higher Education: Massive Online Open Disruption
The ongoing carnage in the newspaper industry provides an object lesson of what can happen when a long-established, information-focused industry’s business model is challenged by low-price competitors online. The disruptive power of information technology may be our best hope for curing the chronic college cost disease that is driving a growing number of students into ruinous debt or out of higher education altogether. It may also be an existential threat to institutions that have long played a crucial role in American life.
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