Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Race Is Not Always The Case

by Daniel L. Bennett

Marybeth Gasman wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed yesterday describing the "disadvantages" of financially teetering Historically Black Colleges. Among these include:
institutions suffer from a history of unequal state and federal funding

foundation and corporate support has not been given at the same rate to black and white institutions

alumni giving...has been and continues to be lower on average than at historically white institutions...due in part to African Americans’ historic lack of access to wealth as a result of systemic forms of racism
I suspected that the race card would come to fruition in a discussion of HBCUs --as is typical with misguided objectives that play to emotions and feelings in presenting racism as the de facto explanation for social ills and justifying increased funding as the solution. According to this realm of thought, as a matter of public policy, we should reward failing institutions that actively practice segregation? (Note: Gasman doesn't directly advocate more funding, but the message is implied)

Gasman's essay comes at a time when several HBCUs, including Paul Quinn, are either facing loss of accreditation or in PQ's case, have had it revoked. A brief note about the power of accrediting agencies: they hold the key to the treasury chest of federal financial aid. If not accredited by a US Department of Education-approved accrediting body, then a college's students are not eligible for federal aid. In other words, hasta la vista if the gatekeepers of Title IV funding grant the kiss of death by denying or removing a school's accreditation. With several HBCUs under intense scrutiny by the accrediting boards, which rarely revoke accreditation, this suggests that these schools are either looming on financial insolvency or failing to meet a very low minimum of institutional quality standards.

Rather than extend their cups looking for handouts, perhaps financially struggling colleges such as HBCUs should take note on how other institutions have been able to turn themselves around when faced with fiscal insolvency. Edward Morris describes how his university was able to overcome near bankruptcy by diverting from the status quo in his book --the Lindenwood Model. It was able to go from "surviving to thriving" by changing the fundamental way that the university is managed -and it does so as a private college focused on teaching that offers tuition comparable to public universities.

This is not to say that every college can (or should) replicate the Lindenwood Model, but HBCUs offer a differentiated college experience for low-income and minority students and as such, should try to differentiate themselves from the pack of wannabe research universities and focus on adding value to the learning experience of their students. This may mean abandonment of an anachronistic model and adapting to realities of the 21st century that include constant change and cultural dynamism.


capeman said...

Daniel, I hate to break the news, but Lindenwood's undergraduate tuition and fees -- excluding anything having to do with housing -- top $13K per year. Hardly high, for private colleges, but not exactly public university territory. In fact, $13/K per year per student for student-related expenses is about the expenditure for low-end public colleges.

This is pathetic ineptness.

Center for College Affordability and Productivity said...

If we look beyond the published rates of tuition, then Lindenwood does price its education rather competitively with the big public university in its state – University of Missouri at Columbia. Using the most recently available data (2007) from the DoE, I compared the average tuition of the two colleges (note: this is a back-of-the-envelope calculation)

Lindenwood's published tuition was a flat $12,400 for both in-state and out-of-state students. Approx. 25% of its students came from out of state, but were not responsible for a tuition differential. UMC's published in-state tuition was $7,077, but its out-of-state tuition was $17,733. Approx 19% of its nearly 28,500 students had residence outside of Missouri - meaning they were charged a differential and hence, should apply the the latter figure to this segment of the study body. Accounting for this factor, the state of residence-adjusted average tuition at UMC was ~$9,100.

We should also account for institutional aid granted to students when comparing tuition. Lindenwood granted 96% of its students with institutional aid, with an average grant of $6,200 for those receiving it. Accounting for institutional aid, the average tuition for Lindenwood students was ~$6575.

Only 64% of UMC students received institutional aid, with an average grant of ~4300 for those receiving it. Accounting for institutional aid and residency status, the average tuition for UMC students was ~$6350.

Without being the beneficiary of huge public subsidies, Lindenwood is able to offer a student-focused private education at tuition comparable to a public university counterpart. Why? A few reasons include 1) it is focused on teaching, 2) it doesn't have a bloated bureaucratic regime and 3) it practices financial constraint.

Daniel L. Bennett

capeman said...

Lindenwood does not offer an average grant of $6200, it offers an average financial aid package of that amount. The grant portion of that is a fraction.

I don't know exactly how much. It would be interesting to see their total budget per undergraduate student and compare the MU budget per undergraduate -- I mean the part having to do with running the school, not dorm fees, football, research grants, public service, extension, etc etc. -- but taking into account endowment income, donations, etc. I don't have that info available.

You say the average tuition at Lindenwood is $6575. I do not believe that is correct, but let me point this out: Lindenwood, to my knowledge, gets almost all of its income from tuition; it certainly doesn't have a big endowment. Doesn't it ring a bell when you conclude that they're educating people for $6575 per year? That is less than most public schools (whose operating budgets don't include capital costs). It's not that much more than your average struggling Catholic K-8 school. Shouldn't that make you wonder?

You talked about public university tution, naturally I took this to mean in-state tuition.

I will accept that Lindenwood probably educates undergraduates for a cost comparable to that of public universities (including the state subsidy). (I'll leave out the mix of subjects offered -- does Lindenwood have high cost programs like engineering, pharmacy, etc etc? Or is it mainly lower-cost stuff like liberal arts (not sciences), business, applied social sciences, etc.?)

I don't accept the notion that very many private colleges are educating for less than a typical low- to medium-level public colleges. I can find plenty of examples of private colleges that expend a lot more than MU per student. And I'm not talking about just Harvard or Amherst. (MU is probably not the low-end in Missouri, by the way.)

Having considerable experience of both private and public higher education, at various levels, I reached the conclusion some time ago that public colleges offer better value.

capeman said...

I checked my 2003 US News college book, probably not too out of date, Lindenwood is almost half business majors, then a lot of education and "communications" students. Not exactly the high cost stuff (like engineering, science, pharmacy, etc.)

Could this perhaps have something to do with the their supposedly low expenditures?

Center for College Affordability and Productivity said...

I would recommend that you pick up a copy of The Lindenwood Model by Edward Morris on Amazon. He describes how the college is able to keep its costs under control with sensible policies such as, but not limited to:

1) having a single institutional mission: teaching
2) faculty focus on teaching and counseling, as opposed to research
3) use of long-term renewable faculty contracts instead of tenure
4) use of academic divisions (headed by a faculty member with teaching duties) as opposed to a plethora of individual departments
5) minimal bureaucracy

The figures that I previously cited are the officially reported data obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Daniel L. Bennett

capeman said...

I understand perfectly well the "Lindenwood Model" -- low-cost majors, complete use of non-permanent faculty, aboliton of recognizable departments, etc etc. I freely acknowledge that it can be done!

I also recognize that somewhat at the 75th percentile at Lindenwood is approximately at the 25th percentile at Missouri, going by the 2003 US News reports of test scores. (And Mizzou students are not exactly MIT class.)

A more apt comparison would be with the University of Central Missouri (the school formerly known as Central Missouri State).

There the tuition for a full-time in-state student is about $6000, an out-of-state student about $12000. The latter very comparable to Lindenwood.

I still don't think Daniel understands the difference between a financial aid package -- loans, grants, work -- and a straight out grant. But perhaps I underestimate the lad.

Lacking access to Lindenwood's budget, it's impossible for me to come to any absolute conclusion about their expenditure per student.

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