Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Study I’d Like to See

I’m hoping that someone has already done this, but if not, it would be incredibly useful if someone did.  Education doctorate students, I’m looking at yoooouuuu…

College administrators everywhere are faced consistently with difficult budget decisions.  In some cases they’re driven by flat or declining enrollments; in some cases they’re driven by cuts in state support; in some they’re the fallout of unfunded mandates; and in some they’re the predictable side effect of low productivity growth relative to the rest of the economy.  Mix and match to suit the local context.

Given the realities of fixed costs, external mandates, and constant technology upgrades, other areas have to absorb disproportionate impact.  Since state allocations and enrollment figures are often uncertain until the very last minute, and meaningful slack was consumed long ago, these decisions often have to be made quickly. It would be lovely if that weren’t true, but it just is.  In public higher education in much of the country, that is simply a given.

Has someone done a serious study of which short-term cuts do the least damage?

I recognize that “the least damage” requires some definition.  There’s educational damage, long-term fiscal damage, reputational damage, and the like.  And some short-term cuts have a way of becoming permanent, while others tend not to.  

But still.  Assuming for the sake of argument that there are college administrators around the country who find themselves in this spot more than occasionally, is there any actual scholarly research that evaluates plausible alternatives against each other empirically?  I’ve seen plenty of lamentations about neoliberalism, privatization, and the like, but those don’t address issues within a given administrator’s scope of control.  

Has anyone done that?  Does anyone care to?