Public Universities in U.S. in Sore Need of a Remake

An article with the above title posted on the Investor’s Business Daily website last week and it’s a shame it will probably be ignored here in Illinois. This is the home, after all, of several bloated public institutions of “higher” education. Unfortunately, it is still considered politically incorrect to suggest anything that might bring serious control of their spending of our tax dollars.

The author of the article, Jay Schalin, is the senior researcher and writer at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, N.C. We’ve noted the Pope Center previously.

As we all know, Illinois is a fiscal disaster that should be cutting government in nearly every direction – even government that hides in ivory towers. What follows is an extended excerpt from Mr. Schalin’s article.

“Public higher education was on a roll for decades. But its rapid growth came to a halt two years ago, thanks to shrunken state revenues caused by the recession.

At first, federal stimulus money and enormous tuition increases – 34% in California and 23% in North Carolina – encouraged business as usual. When reality started to set in, administrators went after the fat, such as excessive administrative staff and unfilled faculty positions.

Public officials and university administrators were hoping that the economy would soon rebound, enabling higher education to resume its growth path. But the economy is still moribund, and more budget cuts are needed…

[T]he spirit of innovation has come to life. Some states are considering the partial privatization of certain flagship campuses. Such schools would replace tax-funded appropriations with higher tuitions and would receive greater autonomy in return…

In Utah, a Republican House member has introduced legislation that would end one of academia’s most sacrosanct traditions: faculty tenure. This may be the first time a state has tried to end the practice legislatively…

No matter who is in charge, we are going to see a frenzy of activity, including faculty layoffs and the elimination of programs. As faculty layoffs mount, an already tough employment market for professors, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, will become dreadful.

Star professors may be available for much less money and fewer perks than before. Schools may choose to employ teaching specialists over traditional, tenure-track, research-oriented academics who teach only a couple of classes per semester.

But none of these things fundamentally changes the institution of higher education. For [states that have] Republican majorities, the budget deficits afford an opportunity to add by subtracting

By wielding the budget ax strategically, they could remake America’s university systems to better serve the needs of the nation.”