Thursday, June 24, 2004

Relative prices of lobbying and fundraising 

(Crossposted at Liberty and Power.) According to Michael Tinkler, the British marquee universities have caught on to teaching-for-profit very late in the game.
They are all busy recruiting American students for one year degrees - a Masters of Studies, at Oxford. Oxford, you see, has decided to move from its current position of approximately 75% undergraduates to parity between undergrads and grads by 2007 (no one thought they'd make it that soon, but think that by 2010 it's pretty likely). You see, graduate students pay higher fees, and if they're non-citizens they pay full tuition -- which my informants pointed out is STILL less than the Ivy League, even if you add in a single round-trip airfare.

All this is leading up to the factoid that surprised me the most. University College, Oxford, set up the first regular alumni fund-raising scheme at Oxford or Cambridge in the late 1980s.

It struck me that Oxbridge colleges are something like American state universities in this way -- very late comers to the money game. The retired Whatchamacallit Professor of Modern History told me that, indeed, they had been embarassed to ask until it was almost too late. Now they're shifting the entire balance of who and what they teach to try to regain some fiscal independence from their government funders. (Emphasis mine.)
That's probably right, but I think Tinkler has missed an additional point here. There are two money sources for a state universities aside its operating revenue from tuition and fees. It can get state subsidies or it can raise funds from alumni. Targeted marketing has become far more productive lately -- I think my colleagues here at SCSU who work on nonprofits will attest to the declining cost of fundraising. Simultaneously, the decline of liberalism in America has made political officeholders less willing to throw dollars at every school willy-nilly. If you think about the effort needed to raise another dollar through fundraising and another dollar through lobbying, the Age of Reagan and Thatcher has probably made the former less costly relative to the latter. That would induce the type of behavior Tinkler now sees.