Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An interesting discussion on rising education costs

You can read the entire article here.
It would make a lot of sense to cut military spending and use that money to solve the whole problem, wouldn’t it? Why the hell shouldn’t every kid have the opportunity to go to college? College is expensive because it’s great! We’re a rich society. But I don’t see any big infusion of public money coming down the pipe. Can things go on as they are? Or must the whole higher education paradigm shift – maybe even collapse? If so, what’s the least bad way that can happen?
My thoughts on the topic:

 A few decades back, we changed the routing of funding for education and new costs emerged as a consequence. This began as necessary state level budget cuts, but was eventually touted as bringing choice to students. At any rate, as senior administrators I listen to periodically joke: ‘we used to be state funded, then we became state assisted, in a year or two we’ll be fortunate to be state located.’
With budget cuts, we now receive the same contribution per student that we did in the 1990′s, with costs courtesy of 2012. The difference has to come from somewhere.
But it’s so much more than just a great recession, rising health care costs, technology investments or general inflation. A part of the explosion in student (perceived) cost is nothing more than shifting from subsidy to direct billing.
However, when we made this transition, our mission changed (whether we realized it or not). We now have a dual mandate – the development of knowledge AND the recruitment of students.
We now have to build our system around attracting and retaining students, and with that a whole new slew of expenses emerge.
You NEED new facilities (not just to use new technology), but to make your University attractive to students choosing where to spend their dollars. You NEED better entertainment and a high quality athletic program to attract students and retain alumni commitment. These needs then NEED new administrators to administrate the new needs. All of this then leads to a NEED for new administrators to beat the bushes for new money to pay for the salaries of those we need to manage the things we now need.
It’s all quite rational in a thoroughly irrational sort of way.
Atop this, of course, we have a woefully inadequate financing system for the bottom up pay model we now use as others have noted.
Simply reversing the funding spigot would not, I suspect, solve this problem at this point. We have institutionalized administrative bloat – and that’s not turf protecting, greedy middle management. Quite the contrary, those new administrators are NEEDS in the system we have re-engineered. It’s a somewhat logical system response to our sourcing needs for our primary dollars (student tuition and fees). I doubt we can simply put the lid back on this box.

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