Monday, April 26, 2010

Links for 4/26/10

I'm back in town and catching up, which means Links are back!

Patrick Henry Winston
relative to the rest of the economy, MIT’s educational productivity has lagged behind by a factor of about 2.75 over the past 50 years.

I’m not really surprised. The last great technical contribution to education was the development of fast, cheap copying machines and before that the invention of the printing press in 1440. I don’t count computers, because I think that, for the most part, they just make us stupid. Education remains labor intensive out of proportion to just about everything else…

My fall subject has two lectures, two recitations, and one tutorial in each of fourteen weeks. Subtracting out holidays, quizzes, and short weeks, that leaves about 60 units of instruction. $50,000 / 8 / 60 ≅ $100, which is about the price of an excellent ticket for a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. If I flatter myself and suppose that my lectures are twice as valuable as the other forms of contact, and note that they last 50 minutes, not 60, then a little algebra says they cost each student about $175 per hour. The best tickets at the Metropolitan Opera and good tickets at Rolling Stones Concerts cost about that per hour.

That’s why I think I’m obligated to practice my lectures more than ever. Opera singers and the Stones practice a lot for their expensive performances, so I figure I should, too.
Andrew J. Coulson
Think carefully about this. What entrepreneur would enter an industry whose total customer base is confined to a few thousand families in a single U.S. city and which has a rigid price control set at half the spending level of a government protected monopoly operating in that same city?

That is not test of market forces.
Jeffrey Brown, Stephen G. Dimmock, Jun-Koo Kang, Scott Weisbenner
we find that universities with larger negative endowment shocks are relatively more likely to: (1) reduce support staff (e.g., secretaries) and maintenance, but not administrators; (2) among less selective institutions, reduce expenditures on tenure-system faculty while increasing the average salary of adjuncts/lecturers; (3) make larger cuts to tenure-system faculty and secretarial support when their endowment portfolio is less liquid (i.e. higher allocations to alternative assets such as hedge funds); and (4) among more selective universities, reduce financial aid for students the following Fall and enroll fewer freshmen.
Thomas Frey via Brett Greene
Colleges are pricing themselves out of existence…

Colleges see themselves operating in a closed system where their main form of competition comes from other colleges. However, the disruptive forces that will launch the next-generation learning revolution will necessarily happen outside existing colleges…

Colleges have long enjoyed the government-sanctioned protections of accreditation and degree-granting ability. This too is about to come under attack. Companies are playing for major stakes, and very little is off-limits in corporate America…

The needs of the student will stop evolving around the needs of the college, and will the cost of learning plummeting, most barriers will go away, making education far more accessible…

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