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Does Wealth Inequality among Universities Pose a Threat to the American Economy? (Part 2)

May 14th, 2015 by dfarish

In Part 1 of this series, “It’s Good to Be the King,” I addressed a recent report from Moody’s Investors Services that predicted a growing separation of a relative handful of super-rich universities from the rest of higher education. I also considered the media coverage generated by the Moody’s report, and expressed my bewilderment that the report’s conclusions did not generate deeper analysis and greater concern.

Perhaps the reason that there was not more media attention and review was because Moody’s summation of the institutional wealth of the richest universities did not surprise many people. There is evidently a broad understanding – and perhaps even acceptance – that some universities have amassed significant wealth, and that the universities with the most recognizable names, and/or the strongest reputations, are often the wealthiest universities.

The Primary Problem with Higher Education, in Four Words: It Costs Too Much

April 28th, 2014 by dfarish

On Monday, April 14, 2014, the Lumina Foundation convened a group of opinion leaders in Washington, D.C., to discuss college affordability, federal student loan policies and the role of states in supporting public colleges and universities (The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Paying for College: Experts Gather in Search of New Models,” April 15, 2014).

Unfortunately, the experts came up empty.

One commentator noted that “affordable” does not necessarily mean “cheap.” Another touted the merits of a net-price calculator designed to show the number of years after graduation at which “the benefits of college outweigh the cumulative costs.” A third suggested that greater numbers of women and minorities should choose more lucrative majors.

I hope the Lumina Foundation did not overly deplete its endowment to pay for these platitudes and in-the-box thinking.

Whatever Happened to Public Higher Education? Part 1

March 24th, 2014 by dfarish

Of the 21 million students in higher education in America, nearly 75 percent are in public institutions, roughly equally divided between two-year and four-year campuses. Although the total number of students grew steadily until three years ago, the distribution in public versus private, and two-year versus four-year, has stayed relatively steady over the past decade.

What hasn’t stayed steady is the level of state financial support for public institutions, and the level of regard the public at large has for its state institutions. These two factors are related, as I will demonstrate shortly.

First, a few facts:

Colleges Must Fix All of Society’s Ills – Or Else! (Part 1)

January 13th, 2014 by dfarish

It’s an interesting time to be a university president. Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t raise a new expectation of what universities can or should be doing. Often, this expectation comes in the form of criticism. Sometimes, it arrives as a recommendation about improving a process.

Taken collectively, the various tasks and expectations now being dropped on higher education administrators are often highly unrealistic, frequently mutually exclusive, and ultimately are doomed to fail.

It’s time for a little straight talk. Let me start by acknowledging two things.

First, higher education in the United States has, at least for the last 150 years, been more responsible than any other component of our society for the American success story – both as a country and as the ladder to individual prosperity and accomplishment. We should therefore be wary of radical changes to a proven track record.

When Did the Tail Start Wagging the Dog?

November 18th, 2013 by dfarish

Readers from an earlier generation might remember the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne All American,” starring Pat O’Brien as Rockne and Ronald Reagan as George Gipp. Rockne was the greatest football coach of his day – possibly the greatest ever – and he fundamentally established Notre Dame as a football power, winning four national championships between 1919 and 1930.

In 1920, George Gipp, a star player from early in Rockne’s career, died at the age of 25 of a streptococcal infection. In 1928, with Notre Dame down 6-0 to Army at the half, Rockne gave the team his famous “Gipper” speech, recalling Gipp’s (probably apocryphal) deathbed request to tell the team, some time when it was down, to “win just one for the Gipper.” Now highly motivated, Notre Dame went out for the second half, promptly scored 12 unanswered points, and won the game.

And that’s how college football used to be (at least in the movies).

Today? Not so much.