Could the growing crisis in American academia be eliciting some smart thinking from the inside? Maybe so. From the Washington Post’s “On Leadership” roundtable, president of Arizona State Michael Crow:
What is missing at present are…pathways for more students to achieve higher levels of educational attainment while graduating at the lowest possible cost…[We] often lack adequate leadership in higher education because leaders are not sufficiently directed toward the production of outcomes that address regional, state and national goals. This is especially the case for community colleges and regional public universities focused on teaching rather than research. These institutions are seen as subordinate in the status hierarchy and their efforts at innovation little incentivized or recognized.It is this lack of innovation by academic leaders that has left room for a proliferation of pushback in the form of incomplete ideas and poorly conceptualized policies. Among such ill-conceived schemes are proposals to effectively turn universities into businesses. Some are proposed by frustrated state leaders desperate to educate more students without bankrupting newly fragile state governments.
President Crow’s full article is available here. His emphasis on innovation makes a lot of sense: America’s universities, which combine the high costs and low productivity of guild structures among the faculty and the hypertrophic bloat of government fed bureaucracy on the administrative side, cling to time-consuming and expensive practices which often come at the expense of efficiency, flexibility and effectiveness. The bill is passed on to parents and students, to the tune of a $1 trillion in student loans.Via Meadia prescribes even stronger academic reform. Higher education is heavily weighted in favor of producers over consumers. Value for money is uneven: tuition costs outstrip teaching quality; degrees (both BA and MA) over emphasize “time served” as opposed to “stuff learned”; and droves of debt-laden students never finish what they start.President Crow’s ideas are a good start, but only a start. The American university needs deep and sweeping reform and the time is much shorter than many in the ivory towers understand.