The first part of 25 Ways, which we are releasing today, is titled: "Use Lower Cost Alternatives." The five topics covered in Section 1 focus on ways in which colleges can reduce their costs by using alternative resources to accomplish the same goals they already seek to achieve. These five topics are:
- Encourage more students to attend community college: The average cost of educating a person at a community college is markedly lower than it is at four-year institutions. Given this cost differential and high attrition rates among students, encouraging more students to begin their postsecondary education at a community college is a sensible policy goal.
- Promote Dual Enrollment Programs: Bright and highly motivated high school students should be encouraged to participate in programs that allow them to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Incentives for colleges to accept these credits are also needed.
- Reform Academic Employment Policies: Tenure is a costly way to protect academic freedom. It is most often prized by the least productive faculty and makes reallocating resources difficult. Several alternatives to tenure are explored, including replacing it with a system of renewable long-term contracts that would lower costs, grant more flexibility, and preserve academic freedom.
- Offer Three Year Bachelor's Degrees: There is little basis for the conventional wisdom that four years is the optimal period of collegiate study. European universities have widely adopted a three-year degree, and American ones could benefit by eliminating the fourth year of study, at least for disciplines that have diminishing returns in the fourth year.
- Outsource More Services: Universities are ostensibly in the business of producing and distributing knowledge. Many of the non-core functions they provide—e.g. housing and food services, building maintenance, recreation centers, etc.—could be provided more efficiently by contracting with outside specialists.
The subsequent four parts of 25 Ways will be released on a weekly basis over the course of the next month. Stay tuned for more coverage in the coming weeks.