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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.

‘College Education Is Underpriced.’ Really?

October 7th, 2013 by dfarish

Yep, that’s the title of an op-ed in Forbes on Sept. 12, 2013. (Actually, the full title is, “There’s No College Tuition ‘Bubble’: College Education Is Underpriced.”)

Well, that contention came as a bit of shock to me, writing as I have been for many months about runaway sticker prices, and how colleges and universities need to address the issue before the federal government does it for them. What gives?

The author, Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Georgia, is a believer in the free market system and a self-described libertarian. Let’s see how his reasoning holds up.

What a Wonderful Week!

May 13th, 2013 by dfarish

It’s been quite a week here at Roger Williams University. We have been more than a little curious regarding the impact that Affordable Excellence would have on the retention of our current students, and on the enrollment of new students who will be entering this coming fall. Given the number of private colleges in the Northeast, coupled with a continuing decline in the number of high school graduates in New England, competition for new students in our region has never been more fierce.