November 29, 2015

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Four Tough Things Universities Should Do To Rein In Costs.

Universities in the United States are the best in the world, but the cost of attending them is rising faster than the cost of almost anything else. Professors blame administrative bloat, administrators blame a decline in state funding, politicians blame unproductive faculties who’ve become too set in their ways.

Yet while students are paying more, they are getting less, at least as measured by learning outcomes, intellectual engagement, time with professors and graduation rates. And although students are working more hours at outside jobs and receiving more tuition assistance, student debt now exceeds credit card debt and has become something of a national obsession.

So you would expect universities to have embarked on the fundamental restructuring that nearly every other sector has done to reduce costs and improve quality. They haven’t. Oh, yes, pay and hiring have been frozen, travel budgets cut, secretaries eliminated and class sizes increased, even as cheaper graduate students and adjunct professors have been hired to teach more. Everything has been done that can be done — except changing the traditions, rhythms and prerogatives of academic life.

“There is a cultural aversion to thinking about cost,” explains Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation, who for more than 15 years has run successful pilot projects in course redesign that have significantly cut instructional costs while improving student outcomes at scores of universities.

Do tell.

Related: Michael Barone: Republicans need to think about cutting public sector jobs and universities’ administrative bloat.

Also: The shame of the campuses: Lying administrators.

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