Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Twelve Commandments for Higher Education Reform

By Richard Vedder

The Lord gave us Ten Commandments to govern our human behavior, commandments that have stood the test of time. Unfortunately, higher education is in such need of repair, in my distinctly non-deified opinion, that I think we need 12 commandments to reform it. I list them below: each will be discussed in greater detail in an upcoming series of blogs that begins tomorrow.

1. Provide better information about universities by making virtually all university operations open to public scrutiny (e.g. data on salaries, budgets, curricular decisions, etc.) and provide data on the "value added" to students by their attendance;

2. Reduce "third party" payments to universities --from the federal and state governments and from private contributors (by limiting tax exemptions except for pure academic purposes);

3. Incentivize key university leaders to reduce, not increase costs (e.g., by reducing administrative bureaucracies);

4. Simplify and reduce or eliminate for non-poor students federal financial assistance programs;

5. Reform accreditation, so it truly measures performance and does not impede competition, including that from emerging for profit institutions;

6. In general, fund students and not institutions --eliminate general institutional subsidies in favor of targeted scholarship assistance based on need and merit;

7. Reduce higher education overinvestment by incentivizing more students to attend lower cost two year colleges and postsecondary vocational institutes;

8. Eliminate funding to undergraduate students after four years of full time equivalent attendance; limit Ph.D. funding also to four years --incentivize schools to end long term (five year or more) Ph.D. attendance;

9. Incentivize professors to teach more and better, and do less obscure academic research that is largely unread;

10. Divest universities of non-core activities (e.g., food and lodging operations, entertainment);

11. Eliminate or drastically reform intercollegiate athletic participation, including removing athletic department autonomy and ending large institutional subsidies;

12. Restructure and clarify university governance by clarifying "ownership" and "property right" arrangements, in the process reducing the prominence of very long term employment contracts for faculty and administrators.

Enough for now. I am off in a few days to Europe and Central Asia, discussing college rankings in, of all places, Kazakhstan.

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