By Richard Vedder
The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) is now one year old. I officially started getting paid on June 15 of last year, but the entity actually began a bit before that. I am not one to toot my own horn, but a review of a few accomplishments of the past year is in order, as well as a brief discussion of future plans.
Over the last year, we have assembled a small but agile team (myself, Bryan O'Keefe, and the "Whiz Kids", mainly Jonathan Leirer and Matt Denhart). We have relied on several volunteer and paid consultants, starting with Brian Fruchey but including others, including my colleague Tony Caporale, and the late Arthur Beroz.
Our blog output is almost precisely one blog per work day for the year. Volume of readers has grown. A highlight of the year was when one reader who comments often, "the cowboy," actually came well over one thousand miles to visit us in Ohio. While I have done a majority of the blogs, increasing numbers are being done by others, especially Bryan.
We have had op-eds appear in a variety of newspapers. I have appeared on national TV, most prominently in a Fox News Special on higher ed (with Newt Gingrich), but also elsewhere, including the ABC Nightly News with Charles Gibson. We have published electronically a couple of longer commentaries, and are finishing up a joint study on Michigan higher education with the Mackinac Center, Michigan's premier public policy think tank. We had a great conference on higher education in the post-Spellings Commission era, keynoted by remarks by Secretary of Education Spellings herself. I have appeared on panels and discussions from Boston to the San Francisco bay region. I have participated in several post-Spellings Commissions meetings of importance. All told, it has been a very good year.
In the coming year, our goal is to ramp up our research and publications. To facilitate that, we will be adding Andy Gillen, who is finishing up his Ph.D. in economics at Florida State, to our staff in two weeks. Andy will serve as our Research Director, overseeing the research of the Whiz Kids, and doing several things of his own. The biggest single project will be to engage in state-specific research. With the assistance of the Pope Foundation, we will look a good deal at North Carolina. Our most exciting project, funded by the Center for Higher Education Excellence, is being done in cooperation with the State Policy Network. We will be researching the higher education systems of several states, although the details are still being worked out. State think tanks will compete for the right to have us do a study, which we will then publish jointly with them. With assistance from the Bradley Foundation, Andy will supervise some additional in depth studies, probably done by outside scholars.
With help again from the Center for Higher Education Excellence, Bryan will be doing a study more fully analyzing the role and ramifications of the monumental Duke v. Griggs Power court case on American higher education, here working in tandem with our friends at the Pope Center in North Carolina. We will be doing more conferences (tentatively, one on accreditation in cooperation with the American Enterprise Institute -AEI- this fall). We will be exploring further the issue of over investment in higher education, and debunking the notion that incremental public spending on higher education in its current form has high pay offs. We will weigh in more on the whole question of student loans, arguing that the nation would be well served if the federal government disengages from this area.
We owe debts to many people and organizations, beginning with the Searle Freedom Trust (SFT) and its benefactor Dan Searle, who put us on the map. Kim Dennis of SFT is our Mother Superior and great friend, assisted ably by Courtney Myers. The Koch Foundation has assisted us by paying for a majority of Andy's salary for the coming year. Fred Fransen has become a good friend, along with our pals in North Carolina, George Leef, Dave Riggs, and, now, Jane Shaw. AEI has worked cooperatively with us. A special friend is Anne Neal, whose American Council of Trustees and Alumni is one of the real positive reform voices in higher education.
Personally, the best thing of all for me is meeting great people and working with them. Bryan O'Keefe is awesome, and his forthcoming wedding in September will be the social event of the forthcoming year. I have had the best student helpers you could ask for, and I will especially miss Jonathan Leirer, who is going off to Florida State to get a Ph.D. in economics.
Enough is enough. This had been a great first year, and we anticipate growth and excitement to mount as we mature in the year ahead.