Saturday, February 8, 2014

More on the Changing World of Higher Ed

In my previous post I highlighted a new report from The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research (click here for the report).  Below is another graph from the report:



Here is some of what Timothy Taylor (from the blog the Conversable Economist) says about it:

The picture that emerges from all this is fairly clear. When it comes to employment, colleges and universities have tried to hold down faculty costs in dealing with the expanding numbers of students by the use of time-contract faculty and part-timers. The nonprofessional staff are dealing with the increased number of students by using improved information technology and other capital investments, without a need for  a higher total number of staff. But the number of professional staff is rising, both in absolute terms and relative to the number of students. Desrochers and Kirshstein report these patterns in a neutral tone: "Growing numbers of administrative positions (executive and professional) and changes in faculty composition represent long-standing trends. The shifting balance among these positions has played out steadily over time in favor of administrators, and it is unclear when a tipping point may be near. Whether this administrative growth constitutes unnecessary “bloat” or is justified as part of the complexities involved in running a modern-day university remains up for debate."

I'll only add that institutions are defined by their people. As the full-time and tenured faculty become a smaller share of the employees of the institution and the professional administrators become a larger share, the nature and character of the institution inevitably changes. In this case, colleges and universities have become less about faculty, teaching, and research, and more about the provision of professional services to students and faculty. As far as I know, this shift was not planned or chosen, and the costs and benefits of such a shift were not analyzed in advance. It just happened.

His last paragraph is quite telling, since it is pretty clear to me that the "character" of many institutions has already changed.  For example, the practice of management in higher education now operates as a kind of "corporation envy" and the administrators view themselves as industrial managers in a "command and control" environment, not as colleagues engaged in the practices of teaching and learning.  One example of this:  the idea of "shared governance" is already diminished as faculty are increasingly viewed as "contract employees" who are necessary for the delivery of service, but unnecessary for the maintenance of the culture of the institution of higher education.  Whereas faculty tend to view their responsibility as educating students, administrators see their role as placating customers.  Whereas faculty tend to see the development and propagation of quality as a major challenge, administrators see "brand management" via "happy customers" as the key challenge.  The disparity of these two views of the role of institutions of higher education leads to predictable dysfunctions (for both faculty and administrators).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The changing world of Higher Ed

There are lots of opinions about what is wrong with Higher Ed., what has happened, what needs to be done, etc.  It's a big issue and, like most big issues, there are many ways to examine it.  One thing is pretty clear, however, and that is the fact that Higher Ed. has increasingly become an organizational form expected to address social problems.  Thus Higher Ed. continues to add departments that are, viewed in the best light, forms of social support for students who are less and less prepared to do college work.  The graph below is an interesting snapshot of this trend.

http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/05-Delta-Cost-daily.gif

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Wasted Financial Crisis???

Adam Davidson at the New York Times asks: Did we waste a financial crisis?  (see here).  Davidson says:

Remarkably, five years after the crisis, the health of the financial industry is just as hard to determine. A major bank or financial institution could meet every single regulatory requirement yet still be at risk of collapse, and few of us would even know it.

So, while Republicans block every attempt at financial reform and Democrats (those who aren't secretly glad the Republicans are blocking reform) go on the talk shows and decry how "hard" they are trying, the rest of us are stuck with a huge bill for stabilizing the financial sector with the added insult that it most certainly can happen again.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Once again: Why we call it "the Great Recession"

CalculatedRisk updates it's (very informative) graph (see here for more ):


Read Robert Putnam's essay in the New York Times

Robert Putnam's essay "Crumbling American Dreams" is surely worth a read (see here).  Below is a quote from the concluding paragraph:

The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem, obscured by solely red or solely blue lenses. Its economic and cultural roots are entangled, a mixture of government, private sector, community and personal failings. But the deepest root is our radically shriveled sense of “we.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The power of "tax expenditures"

Timothy Taylor over at the Conversable Economist (see here) has a very informative post on "tax expenditures" ("a provision of the tax code that looks like government spending: that is, it takes tax money that the government would otherwise have collected and directs it toward some social priority" as he describes it).  He shows the following table that makes for interesting reading.