Posted by: Haris H. | April 29, 2009

A Glimpse Into The Future?

Our goal at Discover Scholars is to empower students and donors relative to institutions. By increasing accountability and encouraging competition between schools, we believe that higher education will become both more responsive and more affordable.

Ironically, the current economic recession offers us some insight as to how the educational world might look when we succeed. With family budgets squeezed and many college endowments decimated by recent market movements, many colleges are coming to the realization that they cannot rely on tuition increases to pay for existing and new expenses. Naturally, they’re cutting costs and becoming more efficient – exactly what we want them to do.

Marty Solomon sketches how colleges might have to change in order to remain viable and competitive:

[T]uitions are now so high as to be unaffordable and will not be allowed to go much higher. So the question is: How can universities possibly cope with smaller budgets and limits on tuitions? The answer is that, as painful as past budget cuts have been, even larger cuts will now be required.

The article proposes some interesting potential responses, such as the merging of small departments, elimination of unpopular programs, and increased teaching loads. Many of these changes are probably desirable, but none of them are likely to result in lower tuition and higher affordability.

However, to extend Solomon’s argument, what if colleges remained economical not just during this downturn, but in the long run? What if students became empowered shoppers, unconstrained by school-restricted financial aid, willing and able to take their business to the provider who best meets their needs? And what if donors didn’t just give unrestricted grants to colleges, but targeted their contributions through organizations that more concretely allow them to measure their impact?

In this world, competition between schools would be the norm, not the exception, and an emphasis on efficiency would bring about quality improvements and ultimately lower prices. This recession might just be giving us a glimpse into that world.

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  1. […] What do each of these trends have in common? The answer should be relatively obvious based on our italicizing: all represent responses by colleges and students to deal with the increasing cost of education. While there are definitely many reasons to be worried about decreasing college affordability, it’s also somewhat comforting to know that market participants are already developing solutions. And fortunately, these trends are likely to continue, even if they are just the tip of the iceberg for how higher education could look. […]

  2. […] the University Last month, we blogged about the ways the recession is accelerating positive changes in higher education, specifically by […]

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