Monday, December 15, 2014
Lessons from Serial
My guess -- which will be proved right or wrong soon enough -- is that Serial will end in a muddle. We in higher ed are well acquainted with muddles. I’d like to see us instead bring some clarity. At some level, that’s supposed to be what we’re about.
There's some defence to the anything-to-maintain-reputation approach. I believe, years ago, you mentioned in a blog post that you were contacted by the president of the university about comments you had made during senate about letting decreased funding result in decreased quality.
In Australia, following a tuition deregulation initiative, Curtin University resisted raising its tuition by 25% like all its counterparts, and found themselves being less popular in applications by locals (http://higheredstrategy.com/predicting-the-effects-of-fee-de-regulation-australia-part-2/). The perceived lesser quality resulted in fewer, or at least lower-ranking, applications. In a bums-in-seats funding model, that matters financially.
I think the only way this system will work is if universities/colleges collectively decide to let "quality" decline in line with decreased state revenue, and help the public link that decreased taxes means decreased public revenues, means decreased post-secondary education quality.
Absent some sort of national or large region scheme to this effect, we're left with the status quo and we'll continue to hear alarm bells about the imminent quality decline in post-secondary education. I've been in the sector for 12 years now, and every year has been a year of "great budget challenges" and "high risk of decline in quality", and yet, on the outside, nothing changes.
Even if we can't let quality decline (for political and financial reasons), we could at least advertise how the university has changed, perhaps a operational/financial "snapshot in time" every 5 years. Such an approach would give the public an idea of what lower taxes have accomplished (both good and bad). We have no business shielding taxpayers from the implications of wanting lower taxes.