This New York Times article on rising student debt focuses on Ohio, but it could easily apply to any state’s colleges and universities. Higher education officials must be more transparent in the way we characterize debt and its impact on life and career in future years.
In the middle of this article, Ohio Governor Kasich weighs in on just why higher education has become so expensive and he questions why every state college and university must have the same majors and programs instead of distributing programs across the state to avoid unnecessary duplication. We can make a strong case for a university’s English department, for example, but there are many specialized degrees that do deserve to be placed under a statewide microscope to examine how many the state truly needs.
Ohio may be an excellent place to start. At last count, I believe Ohio has 16 public universities. Even higher education insiders would comment over the years that Ohio overbuilt its universities. Now in these new economic times, it is more difficult than ever to justify the business model that has been in place since these universities were built.
Some State Board members have questioned whether Idaho can afford three research universities in a state with 1.5M people. Perhaps the more accurate question is whether we can justify all undergraduate and graduate academic programs across the state’s public university campuses. I can think of at least two prerequisites to any successful program review of university degrees and programs. First, there must be a strong staff with the analytical tools to lay out the options for board members. Second, there must the political will among the board members to implement the recommendations of the staff and be willing to take the political heat when a program is terminated and the alumni and political supporters of the university turn on the board. Good luck with that one!
Click to read article: Degrees of Debt: A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College