Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Unseemly Complacency 

That's the description a federal Dept. of Education report called "very rough" first draft says about the state of higher education.
What we have learned over the last year makes clear that American higher education has become what, in the business world, would be called a mature enterprise: increasingly risk-averse, frequently self-satisfied, and unduly expensive. It is an enterprise that has yet to address the fundamental issues of how academic programs and institutions must be transformed to serve the changing educational needs of a knowledge economy. It has yet to successfully confront the impact of globalization, rapidly evolving technologies, an increasingly diverse and aging population, and an evolving marketplace characterized by new needs and new paradigms.
Students now use a "cafeteria approach" to education, taking a little here and a little there in both time and place. The idea that one will shape students into "Huxley Men" through the general education program is increasingly an obsolete model. And increasingly more expensive.
We believe that affordability is directly affected by colleges� and universities� failure to seek institutional efficiencies and by their disregard for improving productivity, since the current system provides institutions with few incentives to do either. The problem is made worse by the confusing and complex nature of the nation�s financial aid system.
The thought that a university would confront its faculty senate with a program for seeking cost efficiencies would be laughable if it wasn't tragic. A business that raised its price 38% adjusted for inflation over ten years, while seeing its product quality slip in international competition, would normally be grasping for any efficiencies they can find, but not at your friendly neighborhood public university.