Archive for January, 2011

What’s for Lunch?

January 21, 2011

Awhile ago, I mentioned India’s plan to create 27,000 new colleges and universities over the next decade.  Well, guess what?  I was wrong.  The number is now 35,600. Here’s what I said a year ago about Education Minister Sibal’s plan to expand India’s capacity in higher education:

What does this have to do with American colleges and universities? Just as low-cost, high value service industries have migrated to India, the higher education market in the US will also start to buy more educational services there as well.

So I was immediately drawn to yesterday’s Business Week article about California’s intention to make a quick lunch of its seed corn by cutting university spending $1.4B and the likely effect that snack will have on job growth and tax revenue.

Particularly striking to me was VC Robert Ackerman’s reaction to the massive and rapid expansion of higher education in Asia:

Right now, if I were the Chinese university system, I’d be running ads showing up on UC websites, recruiting students to universities in Beijing and Shanghai.

Now I am not a big fan of the proposition that value in higher education can be measured in dollars spent–if American institutions made better use of their budgets, then the resulting efficiencies would actually increase capacity–but there is little doubt that wholesale dismantling of universities across the country is a very bad idea.

We are shrinking university capacity at a time when India, China, Singapore and many other countries are  increasing theirs. India  alone will create 600 new research universities. China is increasing its capacity in research universities while the  U.S. has created one new research university this century: UC Merced.  Since Merced is part of the California system, its prospects are dimmer by the moment. Only a handful of new universities of any kind have been created in the U.S. since 1960, a period in which college enrollments have quadrupled.

Why is falling capacity so important? Because the worldwide market is growing, and we are systematically reducing our share of that market when economic competitors are  moving in the opposite direction. I leave it as  a homework exercise to determine what happens when an enterprise loses market share in a growing market.

Buon appetito!

Show me the value!

January 19, 2011

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding my post about Ephemeralization of American Universities.  One of the solutions I advocate is concentrating resources where they matter most — and for most universities that is not in the first two years when increasingly commoditized, high quality content is available to replace ineffective bricks and mortar in-person classroom experiences. Many of my colleagues have argued that the classroom experience is not only pedagogically superior, it is what students value. That was an argument that always rang hollow to me.  It did not match my experience and many of colleagues agreed.

But my anecdotal reporting of experiences has limitations.  A new book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa puts some weight behind the proposition that during the first two years of college students learn little.  That does not mean the first two years has no value, but as the Ephemeralization pill experiment suggests, the value is much more likely to be social than academic.

Here’s how Jacques Steinberg describes it in his New York Times blog:

This is going to be a topic that generates a lot of heat.  Behind it all is the question: why are we spending such a large part of the higher ed dollar on that part of the college experience that returns the least value?