Friday, October 20, 2006

Traveling Across America, Broadly Defined

By Richard Vedder

I have been absent from this space for a few days. I am having a hectic week, being on 12 airplanes and giving lots of talks --all the while teaching two classes (twice each) at Ohio University. I generally do not travel with a computer, using travel time to get caught up on needed reading or, in my case, grading essay exams.

I gave a talk earlier this week at the University of Manitoba. Two interesting things: Manitoba has had a six year long tuition cap imposed legislatively, and attrition rates are similar to those in the States. At the University of Manitoba, in-province tuition is $3200 (Canadian), about $2900 U.S. This has squeezed the institutional budget a good deal, I was told. I generally am not fond of tuition caps, but the fiscal restraint it forces on institutions has a healthy dimension to it --it forces schools to become more conscious of the need to conserve resources, and often fosters some innovative thinking. On dropout rates, I was told that 56 percent of entering students at the U of M (as it is called) graduate within 6 years --pretty close to the U.S. figure. There is no selectivity (to speak of) in admissions. America's problem of college dropouts is not unique, and I suspect in both countries there is a fairly high price to pay for open admissions policies in terms of dropout rates and the inefficiencies associated with them.

Peter Stokes invited me to the Eduventures conference in Boston, where I spoke yesterday. I gave a pretty provocative talk pointing out all the reasons colleges are too expensive --the problems of third party payments, poor information,non-profit structure,price discrimination,lack of a bottom line, etc. etc. I harranged for 45 minutes. I braced myself for a torrent of hostile questions. Surprise!! NONE. I guess everyone in the audience agreed with every word I said --200 or so educrats from the higher ed community. Amazing. In reality, I think many members of the higher education community know that I am right, that "the system" leads colleges to do silly and expensive things. Actually, Eduventures put on a great conference, raising a lot of important issues that need addressing.

Today, I present a report on the Spellings Commission report to the Board of Trustees of Ohio University, which has some senior administrators at that institution very nervous given my propensity to be outspoken (the Trustees themselves asked for the report). Do they have anything to worry about? Time will tell. Tomorrow, I am speaking at the U. of Connecticut Law School, and hope to gain insights on trends in law school education. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

academicadminblog said...

Eduventures attracts many, many more participants from the for-profit education sector (my sector, actually), and so it is not at all surprising they agreed with every word. Such was thieir orientation before you arrived to speak, less you think every word you said struck such a chord that it converted all in attendance. :)