In a recent article, Stanislaus Hamid Shirvani, president of California State University, promotes the need for pragmatism to save higher education.
“Cutting costs is not enough. We need to break down expectations based on entitlement and focus on educational productivity and outcomes. Institutions should review redundancies, rethink staffing models, and streamline business practices. Productivity measures should be applied in all areas. In the same way that secondary schools are being challenged to consider longer school days and an extended academic year, we in higher education need to revisit basic assumptions about how we deliver higher education to students. We should not be tied to any one model or structure.”Amen. Cutting costs and improving productivity does not always have to come at the expense of services or payrolls. Increasing employee benefits can attract better employees and make employees more efficient. State mandates on how universities can organize will more than likely stifle innovative approaches. College costs have been consistently rising, as has federal financing for postsecondary education. The rising cost of college may also be a reason for increased borrowing, which has been encouraged by the government increasing student loan availability.
Shirvani’s article elucidates the largest factor: the sense of entitlement many students feel in college. “Pragmatism must prevail” and some luxuries must be eliminated or universities must produce an alternative model to provide for the funding.
“In an era when pragmatism must prevail, those of us in higher education must come to grips with the idea that we can opt out of college rankings and national recognition without doing damage to the fundamental value of the education that we offer to the students whom we serve.”The focus of higher-education institutions needs to shift back toward students and outcomes rather than reputation and prestige.
President Shirvani continues:
“Government, of course, needs to be a part of this process, and taxpayers must be reminded of their shared responsibility for public education. But the only way that we can persuade them to invest in higher education is to demonstrate our commitment to efficiency, openness, and accountability.”He hits the nail on the head in suggesting that efficiency, openness and accountability should be a prerequisite for funding, not the other way around. It is refreshing to hear a major university president making these arguments. The question now is whether any others will join his call?