Going Broke by Degree – #Higher Ed Tsunami?

Jeffrey Phillips wrote a good post last week about his insights into HigherEd problems from his college tours with his daughters: HigherEd Insight from college tours 

Insights from his trips and discussions of college include the high costs from inefficient use of capital such as classrooms to meet capacity from 11 am till 3 pm eight months a year and spending on plush dorms, workout facilities and student unions. He also discussed whether the use of online course shouldn’t permit students to put together a combination of the best online courses with traditional courses – eventually forcing universities to allow packages similar to iPod music mixes.

I have been planning to post a series of articles on the “Tsunami in HigherEd”. I have written before about the problems with innovation in the business models of Universities, for example a post: HigherEd: Who is the Customer?

In my upcoming posts I plan to look at four big issues facing universities: (1) continuing ballooning costs, (2) a possible bubble due to loans, government policy, and high expected returns, (3) disruptive technology (online MOOCs), and (4) internal resistance to change.

One of the great things about working in academy is the change to talk with experts. I had the opportunity yesterday with a small group to have lunch with Richard K Vedder, who has been writing about HigherEd cost pressures and other risks for years in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal and other outlets. I had read his book, Going Broke by Degree,some years ago.

I asked Dr. Vedder about the four forces I thought threatened HigherEd. He was in strong agreement and even added a fifth, (5) unfavorable demographics ahead as potential users decline and seniors argue for reallocation of government money to keep Medicare solvent. He agreed that another cost pressure was the growth of administrative overhead at universities (increase in “Ass Deans”) which had been discussed in another book, The Fall of Faculty (Meddle Management) .

Dr. Vedder questioned the usefulness of accreditors as well as administrators. Overall I found him to be more complacent about the future of higher education than I would have expected.

Outsourcing Football

A cool insight that I would have liked to hear more about was how my university benefited from being near a major football power without having to pay the incredible costs of such a program. (Our students go to the games, but the ludicrous coaching salaries, funds siphoned from academic programs, and legal problems from athletes – such a when a “student-athlete” decides to steal drugs at gunpoint – are borne by the school across the river.)

Dr. Vedder says he is looking into pairs of schools in similar situations…

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