Last month, we blogged about the ways the recession is accelerating positive changes in higher education, specifically by forcing universities to become more efficient and accountable in light of falling financial support. It didn’t take long for schools to come to the same realization. Hamid Shirvani, president of California State University – Stanislaus, writes about his school’s need to adapt to changing conditions:
The university must continue to depend on all of its employees — faculty, staff, and managers — to function efficiently and to fully serve our students. Nevertheless, there is a new reality that we cannot continue to ignore based on the false hope that things will return to the status quo. We must reinvent ourselves by re-engineering what we do and how we do it. As a public institution of higher education, if we cannot refocus and break free of our old ways of thinking to redefine our place in society, then we’ve already failed. As society changes, so must we also readjust, re-evaluate, re-engineer, and implement new ways of doing things that will enable us to be more efficient and accountable, while also preserving the quality of our academic programs and student services. Public universities can remain true to their diverse educational missions by sustaining the best parts of their past, but we must also boldly reshape and reinvigorate our institutions for the future. If we don’t, someone else will.
The whole piece is worth reading for it sketches the choice facing many schools across the country: adapt or die. Cuts in public funding and tighter family budgets are forcing schools to cut costs. Nowhere is this choice more starkly presented than in California, where the budget shortfall for the University of California system alone amounts to over half a billion dollars.
While Shirvani makes no concrete proposals, it’s encouraging to see colleges recognizing the reality of the situation and adjusting accordingly. We hope that this spirit of increased efficiency and accountability continues beyond the economic crisis. Since the past offers us little hope for that, DiscoverScholars will continue to empower students and donors to hold schools accountable.