Universities in Trouble

One thing that has made my new job even harder is dealing with the financial fallout in Michigan as it affects state and university budgets. A review of several books that deal with University funding appeared in the New York Review of Books last week, and it pretty well describes some of the pressures I’m seeing.

It’s a longish essay, and well worth reading if you want to understand the Hobson’s Choice we face in higher education right now.  Some highlights:

“at public institutions, where tuition historically has been kept relatively low by means of a subsidy derived from tax revenue, the financial model is also at risk. These institutions—long before the current crisis—were seeing … “massive disinvestment” by the states.

…On the expense side, one finds the usual strategies: salary and hiring freezes, reduction of staff by layoffs or attrition, cancellation or postponement of construction projects….On the revenue side, some institutions…are increasing the number of undergraduate students they admit, in order to collect additional tuition to help close the budget gap….

such a strategy stretches the capacity of existing dormitories, classrooms, and advisers at just the time when more and more students, facing a contracting job market and longer odds against getting into and paying for graduate school, are turning to the career and counseling services for help

In short, the financial crisis not only is threatening the livelihood of faculty and staff but is also degrading the experience of students.

Yup. That’s about right.

One thought on “Universities in Trouble

  1. This is true in New Jersey, too. The state universities were getting their funding cut even when the economy was relatively good, and now they’re getting even more severe cuts. It all goes back to a 30% income tax cut during the Whitman administration that crippled the state’s finances.

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