Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Winston Salem State U. Deserves A Pat On The Back

by Daniel L. Bennett

It is not often enough that an institution of higher ed rejects the status quo in admitting that one of its ambitions is unsustainable and actually backs off. Winston Salem State University has done just that in announcing that it will abandon its "campaign to become an active member of NCAA's Division I, electing to remain in Division II for financial reasons," as reported by CHE. WSSU deserves a pat on the back for setting a good example that should be emulated with more regularity.

WSSU Chancellor Donald Reaves issued the following statements to support the decision, which the Board of Governors unanimously approved:
in the final analysis the resources to complete the reclassification simply were not available, currently nor prospectively, in sufficient amounts
If there were any reasonable way to complete this transition without diverting resources from competing academic priorities, I would have recommended that we stay the course
Over the past two years, we have continued to be concerned that budgetary constraints would not allow us to successfully complete the transition...As the athletics deficits continued to mount, there appeared to be no rational way we could continue the process
While our expenses have increased as one would reasonably expect, the budget problem that we have encountered is a revenue-side problem
University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles voiced support for Reaves' decision, stating:
WSSU – like every other UNC campus – must operate its athletic department on a fiscally responsible basis. And it cannot put the burden of doing so all on the backs of its students
I suspect that there are plenty of other programs and expenditure items that would fall into a similar category of being financially unsustainable and as diverting resources away from competing academic priorities. Now, if we could only get more institutions to conduct similar cost-benefit analysis of their myriad programs in order to determine their priorities within a revenue-focused budget constraint (rather than an expenditures-focused one) and actually make tough decisions about what stays and what goes, then there is a chance that the rapid inflation of college tuition will cease and we will start to see a convergence towards an equilibrium price. I believe this is something that both sides of the aisle would agree is in the best interest of our nation and is a realistic ambition.

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