College Presidents Seek Winning Political Message

Heywood Fralin, chairman of the State Council of Higher Education, proposed creating a committee of college presidents and SCHEV board members, to address critical issues facing higher-ed in Virginia.

Virginia’s college presidents feel under siege, and they seek a political message that will resonate with citizens and the General Assembly

Fearful of eroding political sympathy for higher education, the presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities informally agreed this afternoon to cooperate in creating a council of presidents and crafting a message that will win support for preserving state and federal funding.

A recurring theme during the discussion at an annual meeting of the presidents with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) was that higher ed should emphasize pocketbook issues such as growing the economy and preparing Virginians for the jobs of the future.

“Everyone is concerned about economic development. A lot of those efforts are sputtering,” said Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia. “Every one of us has a business dean. We should lock them up in a room and not let them out until they come up with a plan.”

Virginia’s higher-ed sector needs to define its “value proposition,” suggested Gil Minor, a former SCHEV chairman, Virginia Military Institute rector and former chairman of Owens  Minor, a Fortune 500 company. “We don’t talk about the value of an education in Virginia.” Colleges need to tell the General Assembly, “Invest in us, and we’ll give you a payback.”

While the gathering acknowledged the need to do a better job of communicating, there were few illusions that higher ed will get a friendly reception by members of the General Assembly and the public.

“The public believes we’re creating Taj Mahals,” noted Heywood Fralin, SCHEV chairman.

“Significant parts of the General Assembly seems to have very little regard for higher education,” said Taylor Revely III, president of the College of William & Mary.

“We’re always seen in Richmond as having our hand out — we’re takers,” said Sullivan. “No matter how much we call it ‘investment,’ it comes out sounding like ‘spending.'”

An area of universal agreement was that cutbacks in state support to higher education over the years has forced public colleges and universities to raise their tuition, and that tuition levels have nearly reached the breaking point. While Virginia’s elite universities still may have leeway to increase tuition, several institutions face the prospect of losing students if their costs go higher. A decision by the Norfolk State University board to raise tuition aggressively on out-of-state students resulted in a decline in out-of-state enrollment from 30% of the student body to 11%, said President Eddie Moore. “I can’t let the tuition run away.”

George Mason University President Angel Cabrera framed the issue as bigger than just the Virginia General Assembly. Fiscal pressures are putting the squeeze on federal financial assistance like Pell Grants, and states across the country are cutting state support for higher ed. “We as a society have decided to invest less in higher ed and to shift the cost to families,” he said. “Of course, when the tuition bill hits the citizens, it’s not a lot of fun.”

The presidents identified numerous culprits responsible for rising costs and tuition levels at colleges at universities. State and federal government impose too many regulations. “Take the regulations that exist and slay 25% of them, and the world would continue to rotate on its axis,” said Revely with William & Mary. He compared the excessive government oversight to parents who try to regulate every aspect of their child’s behavior. “It doesn’t lead to good results.”

Potential cutbacks to Pell grants also are worrisome. About 30% of GMU’s students depend upon Pell, said Cabrera.

The higher-ed leaders also expressed concern about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) legislation in Congress. “We have Dreamers in every university in the state,” said Cabrera. “Two-thirds are in Northern Virginia.” Over and above the humanitarian principles at stake, the presidents worried about the potential reduction in enrollment and loss of revenue.

But the biggest threat to Virginia higher ed,  in the estimation of SCHEV members and presidents alike, is the steady erosion of state support to the public institutions.

“I think we’ll find that a lot of our priorities are the same,” said SCHEV chairman Fralin. “We have to talk more about tuition and what causes increases in tuition. … I believe that, when all the facts are disclosed, the colleges have done a pretty good job of controlling costs. But that’s not the message to the public.”

In the 2011 Top Jobs Act, the General Assembly set a goal for Virginia’s higher ed system to produce an additional 100,ooo degrees and certificates by 2030. It costs money to expand enrollment but “the additional monies have not been forthcoming from the Commonwealth,” said Fralin. Another example of the institutions are getting squeezed: The state encouraged colleges to build more buildings but has not provided money to cover their maintenance. “Tuition dollars go to maintaining these buildings,, which was not the plan at the time they were built.”

Fralin said it was time for another restructuring of higher ed in Virginia, on a par with the 2005 Restructuring Act, which theoretically gave colleges and universities more freedom from state oversight, including the ability to raise tuition, in exchange for more accountability for achieving state goals for higher-ed such as affordability and accessibility. The state needs to consider once-unthinkable options such as bolstering out-of-state enrollments in order to reap their big tuition payments, or creating a higher-ed reserve fund to smooth out volatile state contributions that make it difficult for colleges to plan. A third idea is to bolster ties with Virginia high schools to better inform grads — especially the 43% who never go on to college or community college — of the potential career opportunities that await them.

These things won’t happen, Fralin said, if SCHEV and the presidents meet only once a year. He proposed creating a committee of university presidents to address critical issues of common concern.

While NSU’s Moore and Old Dominion University President John Broderick pushed back on the idea of raising tuition aggressively — they’ve largely hit their limit — there was general buy-in for the idea of creating a president’s committee. No formal vote was taken, however, nor did anyone outline a structure for the committee.

Paul Trible, president of Christopher Newport University, thanked SCHEV for its emerging role in recent years as a “champion” of Virginia’s colleges and universities. “My colleagues appreciate the fact that you’ve been willing to become the advocate of higher education.”

But he issued a warning: “There isn’t going to be any more money in the next session” for higher ed. Medicaid will take the first claim on increased state funds, and K-12 education, whose standards of quality are mandated by the state constitution, will stand in line ahead of colleges and universities. If higher ed is going to do something, he urged, “Let’s stop being incremental. Let’s be dramatic. Let’s be bold.”

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39 responses to “College Presidents Seek Winning Political Message

  1. Was there no discussion about the sky-rocketing costs of the university bureaucracies and faculty salaries which are unrelated to providing classroom instruction and teaching undergraduates?

    This blog has chronicled the addition of departments dedicated to social justice and non-educational goals as well as the high salaries of professors who do little or no teaching, yada, yada.

    It is ironic that their hoped for solutions you note in your posting for Virginia’s public universities are to seek out-of-state or even non-citizen students at inflated tuitions rather than fix their problem which is that the cost exceeds the value.

    I am told that Darden is now about $95,000 per year. Talk about pricing yourself out of the market! Who is going to pay that? Only those subsidized by large corporations. This is not in the Commonwealth’s interest!

    Is there no serious attention being given to reducing administrative costs and redirecting the public universities’ monies and focus to actually educating the commonwealth’s children at a reaonable cost?

    • Musings, There was no acknowledgment whatsoever among the college presidents or SCHEV board members –not one word — that the educational institutions bore any blame for higher costs. Not one person mentioned bloated administrative costs, although, if someone had, I have no doubt that they would have blamed state and federal regulations (not without some justification). No one mentioned salary inflation. To the contrary, some complained that Virginia faculty salaries were not competitive. No one mentioned the “Club Ed” phenomenon. No one mentioned spending on college athletics. No one mentioned the need for business process reforms. Nothing. Nada.

  2. http://thehalfsheet.org/post/165301363923/we-need-more-than-wishful-thinking-a-closer-look

    This might help in terms of what higher ed $$$ are from the candidates.

    I would agree about the previous items but what is missing is that you have to pay for parking, IT. These are things that people miss when they talk about bureacracies, that without levying fines/making students pay for the infractions, also doesn’t help.

    You are probably also paying for a bunch of social “groups”, remedial tutoring, rather than the students attending those groups paying for the issue themselves or paying for it beforehand.

  3. I’m finishing up Vivian Thomson’s book on her observations of regulatory capture with the state air board, the electric companies and DEQ. You might be seeing a similar phenomenon underway here.

  4. If the complainers were talking about one or two or a few “egregious” standouts that are “guilty” of spending money on things like “social justice” it might be a legitimate view but when you’re applying these “sins” to virtually all colleges across the spectrum – it starts to sound like a conspiracy theory… again….

    The simple economic truth is that no matter the reasons for the higher costs or even if there is a “conspiracy” (sic).. that the demand for college – continues.

    That’s the bottom line.

    College tuition costs are what they are – not only throughout Virginia but the Nation. So we absolutely must have a massive conspiracy , eh?

    on the “regulatory”… issue… what a joke! That’s like Chevrolet telling you that Cadillacs are so expensive because of “regulations” or say the Verizon claiming your cell phone is so expensive because of the “govt” regulations.

    Oh wait… cell phones are so expensive because the cell phone companies have to give away “Obama” phones.. and those Cadillacs? well they’ve got to take in enough money so they can develop self-driving cars..right? Someone has to pay for all of that so the price across the board is increased.

    Talk about conspiracies! wow! Just WOW!

    Guys – tuition costs have gone up across the country – for all kinds of colleges… public and private… and yes.. higher than the cost of inflation… but if you ever believe in supply and demand – you have to explain why that does not ‘work” for College.

    In fact, you can get “cheaper” college in a number of ways… that actually do exist and more and more people are choosing those alternative paths – such as online, for-profit, Community Colleges, and.. hold on to your seats – non-residential attendance at 4-year schools!

    You want to see College costs come down? Easy. Stop the govt loans. I guarantee an almost immediate response when people have to cough up the money themselves or get their own loans –

    The College cost “problem” is almost like the subsidized Flood Insurance problem. As long as the govt steps in to “help” – the “demand” for College stays strong – no matter the cost and increase – as long as loans to cover it still are available.

    At some point… folks have to come to their senses and not attribute every bad thing that happens to some kind of a “conspiracy” and just look at the simple realities .. in this case – simple supply and demand… combined with the fact that people who want to go to college are little better financial consumers than those who would get pay day loans..

    As long as loans are easily available – demand will stay high – no matter the “price” – as long as the loans will “cover” it.

    pretty simple economics… no conspiracy – nada… just standard market forces in play – and yes.. they do teach this stuff in college!!!!

    • Larry, who are you talking to? Who is suggesting there is a conspiracy?

      • well here’s an example – and not just to single out one comment.. this kind of thinking is rampant here in BR where the “sins” are said to be with respect to Higher Ed – in general even though the Universities are all separate entities. How would you explain all of them doing the same things.. unless they were “colluding”, eh?

        ” Was there no discussion about the sky-rocketing costs of the university bureaucracies and faculty salaries which are unrelated to providing classroom instruction and teaching undergraduates?

        see.. look – “ALL” of them.. right?

        This blog has chronicled the addition of departments dedicated to social justice and non-educational goals as well as the high salaries of professors who do little or no teaching, yada, yada.”

        Are we talking about ALL Higher Ed here? Across the board – all of them?

        or are we talking about SOME higher ed that is clearly out of the “norm” on their costs?

        Are there absolutely no “competitors” who refuse to hire “social justice” minions so there is a virtual “monopoly” among all the providers?

        how does this work? Isn’t it like saying all the car makers are colluding to not deliver ‘affordable” cars..??

        how about explaining it?

        thanks!

  5. This post is very sad. All these people want to talk about is money.

    And when they talk about “investment” they talk about public money being invested in them as institutions, not about their investment in students.

    It is all very sad. And it screams out for reform.

    • Should anyone want to know what is going on in Virginia’s colleges and universities, and most particularly UVA under Teresa Sullivan, please read Heather Mac Donald’s commentary in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled:

      HIGHER ED’S LATEST TABOO IS ‘BOURGEOIS NORMS”

      So pervasive is Teresa Sullivan’s affliction that is comes across loud and clear in Jim’s blog above, for example:

      “We’re always seen in Richmond as having our hand out — we’re takers,” said Sullivan. “No matter how much we call it ‘investment,’ it comes out sounding like ‘spending.’”

      Not to mention her public statements to the UVA community. The last one that I read regarding recent events at UVA mentions the words “slavery” and/or “enslaved” no less than six times when not cluttering up her opinions with characterizations of “White Supremacists” and the “KKK” on the Grounds.

      How can UVA “solve the world’s most pressing problem” when it cannot function on any level on its own Grounds below the tempo of Hysteria, whether it be leaders or students.

      Mr. Ryan cannot get himself installed and operating at UVA fast enough.

      • One of the great comic routines in “College Presidents Seeking Winning Political Message” has been watching UVA’s months long and heavily orchestrated history of all UVA’s Presidents, a PR Campaign ginned up to an obvious Grand Finale: the stepping down of the greatest UVA President of all: the Grand Teresa Sullivan herself.

        Unfortunately for her, the most recent hysteria at UVA engulfed the best laid plans of UVA propaganda department, reducing President Sullivan to claiming she was launching a deeper investigation into the nefarious activities of UVA’s first President Edwin Adlerman.

        Earlier President of North Carolina and Tulane universities, UVA President Alderman is alleged to have accepted a donation from the KKK nearly one hundred years ago. Apparently now this nefarious act is under investigation, according to Teresa Sullivan’s statement. One suspects the stripping Mr. Aderman’s name from UVA’s Aderman Library might be a way to save Mr. Jefferson’s statute from removal. As least, that might well be the motive given how University administrators’ minds work these days as they cannibalize the memory of their predecessors in order to elevate their own right claim to immortality.

        And while we are on the subject of cannibals, perhaps a new Council of Virginia Higher Education Presidents can find a way to talk with one another about events in the real world, as opposed to the mythological world. Like for example, how UVA research activities are eating alive other colleges and universities in the state, such as George Mason’s Northern Virginia medical research center with Inova, and Sweet Brier’s efforts to teach women the sciences, instead of having them milked as young researchers for UVA’s professors.

  6. George Mason University President Angel Cabrera framed the issue as bigger than just the Virginia General Assembly. Fiscal pressures are putting the squeeze on federal financial assistance like Pell Grants, and states across the country are cutting state support for higher ed. “We as a society have decided to invest less in higher ed and to shift the cost to families,” he said. “Of course, when the tuition bill hits the citizens, it’s not a lot of fun.”

    Translation: The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

    As America’s welfare state continues to drain money from productive citizens those citizens rebel against that drainage. The net result is an expectation of ever expanding government benefits from the left and a virulent opposition to increased taxes from the right. While the Feds can simply incur more debt the state cannot. Something has to give. One lever the state pulls is reduced funding for higher education. This pushes the universities to seek students who can pay a tuition that will cover all their costs and more. Unfortunately, those students tend to be wealthy, pampered young adults who are used to living in relative luxury. They grow up in homes where the parents have season tickets to sporting events. What can universities do to attract these well heeled students? Build expensive facilities. Invest in a wide variety of entertainment including sophisticated sports teams. Pay a lot of money for professors with name recognition. Establish or expand expensive medical schools to become a “complete university”.

    In Virginia the problem is compounded by our corrupt state government. Not only is the welfare state expanding in Virginia but the crony capitalist state takes a big bite out of potential tax revenues by handing out permanent tax breaks to favored companies and industries. JLARC estimates that these unending tax breaks come to $12.5B per year in lost state taxes with no analysis of whether the tax breaks generate sufficient (or any) benefit to the state. Meanwhile, our General Assembly continues to pass laws (and uphold existing laws) that make Virginia the least competitive state for legislative elections. For example, the off year voting holds down turnout to the die hards the legislators can control, the unlimited campaign contributions make challenging incumbents difficult, the endless gerrymandering in contradiction to the state constitutions protects incumbents, the opaqueness of committee votes protects the guilty and the ridiculously difficult hurdles to get on the ballot makes sure that independents and third parties never play a meaningful role.

    As always in Virginia if you want to find the real culprits behind a problem you need look no further than the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

    • Agree about GMU. It amuses me that this blog always focuses on Virginia Tech, U.Va., W&M, and VCU….

      If the blog truly cared about university underperformance, it would be focusing on GMU. Just a complete catastrophe when compared to the University of Maryland in terms of serving as an economic engine for the Commonwealth.

      In all of its years of existence, has the school ever established a coherent plan? One year it wants to be “the biggest state U” and touts its enrollment numbers…one year it wants to be a haven for right-wing ideologues…..one year it wants to be a NoVa-focused institution…..it’s been all over the map in the past couple of decades.

  7. I love this quote: “The public believes we’re creating Taj Mahals.” Actually, many colleges are. Why is VT spending money on an office to help students get passports? Isn’t that a Federal responsibility? Oh wait, it is. And it’s available at the Post Office 1/2 mile from campus.

    What do the colleges charge illegal aliens for tuition? They are not Virginia citizens?

    The waste of money on campus is tremendous — I know as I work for one. But since there is no ‘bottom line’ – no one cares about cutting costs.

  8. so is Higher Ed cost a Nationwide problem with the same roots as cause?

    re: “Translation: The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

    It’s a nice catchy phrase that those who fancy themselves as fiscal conservatives like to toss about but it really does not explain very well the actual issues.

    and I say this because in Europe – college is “free” but it’s the basic tuition version and if you want “more” you pay out of your own pocket for more.

    Our problem as DJ alludes is that people of higher means are using the govt to “afford” college for their kids so they can use the saved money for other things like beach houses subsidized with FEMA flood insurance!

    We’ve made College with all the “trimmings” in this country – an “entitlement” for ALL to include people who have family incomes of 100K and I have a hard time equating that to “socialism” to be honest especially when in Europe – you get “free” college but it’s basic tuition only –

    but again I ask – if this problem is Virginia-wide and/or national in scope – and College is “over-priced” … everywhere.. and many have concluded that the price is tied to “social justice” bureaucracy.. then it starts to sound a lot like .. yet another elite liberal “conspiracy”, no?

    Of course you have to throw in private Colleges like Liberty, Cal Tech, MIT, etc and others.. that also are equivalently priced so they must be hiring those useless “social” administrators also, right?

    How do we explain ALL of them of being outrageously-priced without the bi 3 – Corruption, collusion and conspiracy!!!

    right? 😉

    • “How do we explain ALL of them of being outrageously-priced without the bi 3 – Corruption, collusion and conspiracy!!!”

      Whenever you are forced to choose between conspiracy and incompetence you can almost always choose incompetence.

      George Mason is in a perfect geography to follow the University of Maryland’s lead and build up its technology education program. I just don’t see that happening. Christopher Newport could work with the Virginia Port Authority and develop a sophisticated logistics curriculum. The University of Tennessee did something like this and now has an extremely strong logistics department. I just don’t see this happening.

      For all their whining about a lack of state financial support Virginia’s colleges and universities seem to have little in the way of workable plans for the future.

      “Everyone is concerned about economic development. A lot of those efforts are sputtering,” said Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia. “Every one of us has a business dean. We should lock them up in a room and not let them out until they come up with a plan.”

      Translation: Virginia public colleges and universities are incompetent in the area of creating economic development. Why are they surprised that the legislature sees subsidizing them as “spending” rather than “investment”.

      But the legislature is far from blameless. Our problem in Virginia is compounded by the overly-cozy relationship between our state legislators and business interests in the state. Giveaways abound – from the legislature suppressing Dominion rebates to its interest in regulating only one fish – the menhaden – in support of Omega Protein to its willingness to hand out tax breaks that never expire and never are reviewed for their efficacy. Once you have a corrupt legislature playing Santa Clause to the state’s business interests the only way to raise additional money is from individuals. The problem is that these individuals vote and are losing patience with endless tax hikes. Additional funding for higher education is caught between a corrupt legislature and frustrated taxpayers.

      The socialism in Virginia has little to do with higher education. First of all, it’s not all that subsidized. As I recall, the state provides something like 11% of UVA’s operating budget. Not exactly a windfall for the Wahoos. The real subsidization comes from supporting a population that is increasingly not participating in the workforce. Social security disability payments have become the new long term unemployment insurance. In Fairfax County the school system is under financial pressure due to the skyrocketing costs of teaching English as a second language brought about by the spike in illegal immigration. Mark Warner pushed through a huge state tax hike only to be followed, three single-term governors later, by Bob McDonnell who pushed through “the largest tax hike in Virginia history”.

      As long as we allow our legislature to buy favor with business interests by showering company and industry specific tax breaks (that last forever) on their benefactors any tax increases will fall to the individual taxpayers in Virginia. Between federal, state and local tax hikes these individual taxpayers have had enough.

      If Virginia wants to improve its system of higher education the public colleges and universities need to show dramatic improvements in their ability to credibly generate economic opportunity in the state and our legislators need to show the minimal ethics to stop shoveling tax breaks into the pockets of their favorite corporations.

  9. Are there publicly supported universities in Virginia which have focused qith demonstrable results on the mission of providing the Commonwealth’s students the best possible education at the lowest possible cost?
    Maybe. If Larry thinks so and is so offended by unfair criticism painted with too broad a brush, he can supply the data.

    UVA may be the worst …
    Leaving aside where the proceeds from UVA’s $6 billion endowment go…
    Examples:
    The University of Virginia is paying its Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, Marcus Martin, $349,000 a year …

    Individual schools at UVa also maintain their own mini-diversity bureaucracies. For example, the McIntire School of Commerce has an Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The Engineering school has a Center for Diversity in Engineering. The law school and Darden school of business also cite extensive activities and partnerships relating to diversity…

    So, how effective is the Office of Diversity and Equity? Take a look at the Office’s Diversity Dashboard, and you’ll find that UVa, despite its commitment to ethnic diversity, isn’t very diverse. Here’s the breakdown of undergraduate students:

    http://baconsrebellion.com/40050-2/

    • Good comments all, Janus.

      How many cents out of dollar UVA spends, do you think goes to teach UVA students?

      I suspect UVA spends significantly less than 12 cents out of every dollar to teach its students.

      How many cents out of every dollar UVA spends, goes toward a worthwhile education for students?

      I suspect that UVA spends significantly less than two pennies out of every dollar to give its students a worthwhile education.

    • Above I suggest that UVA spends only a few cents out of every dollar on the cost of teaching and educating its students.

      This extremely low amount of money that I suggest UVA likely spends on teaching its students seems at first blanch outrageously low. But one must consider that UVA like most elite research driven universities works very hard at reducing their teaching costs. Only by cutting drastically their teaching costs will they free up the vast amounts of money they need to grow their status as an elite research driven university.

      This ambition poses many challenges money-wise and institution-wise for UVA given that it use to be a highly effective undergraduate school in the Arts and Sciences. But now ,with its new found ambition, UVA in 2011 needs a great deal more money than before to attract the kinds of non teaching professors in STEM research that are needed to pump up UVA elite ratings so as to attract Federal and private grant dollars while also at the same time attracting elite students.

      Thus to play this new game successfully, the University had to keep the costs of its teaching professors and facilities at an absolute minimum so as to have the massive amounts of new funds necessary to attract and maintain an whole new cadre of high salaried STEM and Like professors who both refuse and have no interest what in teaching, but instead want armies of young researchers and expensive equipment and other perks and benefits they claim to need to pursue their research, and maintain their status among their peers within the Academic.

      So UVA, to build often from the ground up and new modern research reputation and capacity has for the past 6 years worked very hard to squeeze ever more monies out of teaching so as to get ever more more money for research and to built the institution status in STEM and related fields.

      In next installment we will describe how UVA has gone about that task.

  10. Examples?

    Are these salaries reasonable? Did UVA need to bump the salary of its President 50% to get a new President?

    Where in private industry can you get a year contract for $1,000,000 plus with housing, car, country club and whatever else dues, a platinum parachute and virtually no meaningful performance metrics to maintain this? RTD 9/19/2017

    Well, ou can get almost the same thing at VCU. “Currently, the highest-paid state employee is Michael Rao, president of Virginia Commonwealth University, according to the Times-Dispatch’s data. Rao makes $900,940 in base pay and bonuses, which may not include other incentives.” RTD 9/19/17.

    You can make $3,000,000 as a football coach but presumably at least have to have some winning seasons.

  11. Conspiracy: NO
    “an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot. ”
    Elite: NO
    “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group: ”

    Liberal:NO.
    If Liberals were consistent, they should be most troubled by the direction of higher education.
    “a person of liberal principles or views, especially in politics or religion.”

    A core cause is the near total absence of effective oversight, transparency, and accountability coupled with unchallenged wrong incentives and imperatives for perceived success

    • re: ” A core cause is the near total absence of effective oversight, transparency, and accountability coupled with unchallenged wrong incentives and imperatives for perceived success”

      So you are saying that the problem is Statewide – even Nationally … in terms of the price of tuition..

      AND that the “cause” of it is that the State and Federal Govt is not exercising more “oversight” to dictate more rules and regulations that would require MORE transparency – to show where the costs are ..

      and then what? would you expect the govt to then essentially dictate what money could be spent on – and not – once the increased “transparency” tells us what all that money is being spent on?

      What I see here is an advocacy for the Govt to become more directly involved in staffing and operational decisions – for ALL Higher Ed – based on the premise that most all Higher Ed is “too expensive” and if we force more “transparency”.. we can then start to dictate what they can and cannot spend money on?

      Isn’t that what increased transparency… then accountability and oversight really mean?

    • “A core cause is the near total absence of effective oversight, transparency, and accountability coupled with unchallenged wrong incentives and imperatives for perceived success”

      Exactly right. Another example of willful neglect by our part-time, self-absorbed, largely useless General Assembly. Typical is the behavior of my own state delegate, Kathleen Murphy. While tuition and fees at Virginia’s public colleges and universities soar she’s off battling those evil “for profit” colleges. Heaven forbid that she show any interest in the colleges and universities that are under the direct supervision of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

      http://www.murphyfordelegate.com/press-releases/letter-editor-murphy-legislation-helping-rein-predatory-colleges

  12. re: ” providing the Commonwealth’s students the best possible education at the lowest possible cost?”

    so here’s your problem. Who decides what is the lowest possible cost?

    and if all of Higher Ed costs are considered “too high” … do you attribute it to something unique to each school or something endemic to higher ed itself?

    I do not think higher ed is priced low enough but then again I don’t think that about health care or Cadillacs either or cable TV or cell phones EITHER!

    So why do we consider something nefarious going on with respect to ALL higher ed? Do we even have a low-cost model to promote to the others to emulate?

    Do you think the govt should determine the price of Cadillacs and cell phone plans? You’d be in favor of a govt bureaucracy to determine tuition price?

    what is your solution beyond complaining and borderline advocating the govt setting prices?

  13. The state of higher education reminds me of the American auto industry in the 1970s. G.M., Ford & Chrysler could all say legitimately that its quality was as good as the competition — that is, each other. Only when they faced real competition from Japanese manufacturers did the U.S. Troika start paying some attention to quality and delivering real value to consumers.

    I read reports that U.S. automakers now deliver vehicles equal to the competition from overseas. I cannot say for sure since I gave up on American cars years ago.

    There is insufficient competition for American colleges and universities, be they public or private. They can afford to be today’s G.M., Ford or Chrysler. They can afford administrative bloat, massive duplication of classes, and what Larry notes as lots of expensive extras.

    Maybe online learning will force improvements.

  14. TMT – there are over 5000 colleges and universities in the US… that’s about 100 for every state! that’s almost enough for one college in each county in Virginia!

    I think the problem is that too many people want a Cadillac (or Toyota Avalon) for the price of a Chevy or Toyota Yaris.

    It’s not like there are not lots of choices to start with… it’s that what the complainers want is a low-priced 4-yr residential experience like was the traditional standard years ago.

    Millions of other people who don’t have 100K in family income – ARE seeking lower cost options that DO ALREADY EXIST in the “market”.

    About the only thing that does not exist in the market is dirt-cheap 4-yr residential.. everything else is far less expensive…

    In my own case – my “college money” disappeared when my Dad retired from the Marine Corp and started his own butcher shop.. in the back of a service station and promptly went broke. Even then – there was not near enough money in that fund for me to go 4 years at a residential University. I was expected to get a job to help pay for expenses..

    People today – a LOT of people do something similar. They are not expecting the government to essentially subsidize a 4yr residential college experience.

    AND they are not jumping up and down about increased transparency, accountability and oversight. They’re voting with their wallets and they refuse to go into debt up to their eyeballs. Only 1/2 of all College Grads – graduate with loan debt.. yet who do we hear about? the other half who had no more discipline and smarts than to choose the high-priced residential option that they’d end up paying for – for decades after they graduate.

    People make choices.

    they make choices about Cadillacs and Avalons.. Chevy’s and Yaris.. and College … yet the ones who make the most irresponsible choices are the loudest complainers.. demanding that the govt “do something”… I swear to GAWD.. they sound JUST LIKE a bunch of socialist-sucking …. LIBERALS who think the GOVT is the answer !!! GEEZE!!!

  15. I view the upshot of this SCHEV meeting as nothing more than college presidents forming a lobbying superpower to double-down on the current trajectory of their operating philosophies. If any of them truly wants to fix their fiscal challenges, they should be inviting Arizona State Univ, Purdue, and Mount Saint Mary to the table. A good liberal should be focused on maintaining access to public higher ed with as few barriers as possible–period. This is their primary duty to the Commonwealth.

  16. This is precious! Perhaps a 50% pay cut for a year; putting the proceeds into a special President’s Scholarship Fund? Or maybe forgo the housing, car and special tax allowances for a year or two until the dust settles?

  17. Larry,
    Absolutely the problem is state-wide and national.

    Your inferences are your curse.

    I did not say the “cause” of it is that the State and Federal Govt is not exercising more “oversight” to dictate more rules and regulations that would require MORE transparency.” I did not state oversight should be Federal or State; however, that exists now,is a part of the current system is is inevitable, and as Bacon has pointed our pretty ineffective.

    By the way, except that you don’t like anything anyone else thinks or says what is your point or position. Somewhat analogous to the barn and the pony, with so much heat in your rhetoric there must be a jewel of a point somewhere.

    • musingsfromjanus – my position is pretty clear. I think if ALL the colleges have the same “problem” and the aggrieved are calling for more “transparency” – for all of them.. that it’s a call for more govt regulation… and the motives behind the call for more transparency is so that it can then be used to get govt to further intervene.

      What do I favor? I favor people making choices that are available in the market today – that include far more than the one residential on campus option that people want and want cheap…

      What I favor is the govt giving vouchers to students that they then can “shop” for the place they want to go to school.. and decide if they want to spend it all on residential on campus or stretch it out further to more years off campus.. or combine it with a job.

      I’d stop funding schools directly and the student vouchers would only cover tuition only – off campus.. and the rest of it would be up to the student to earn or get his/her parents to help.

      What I advocate is a system similar to Europe where higher ed is higher ed … not big time sports and other foolishness.

      basic tuition to all but if your living expenses are yours.. both food and lodging.. that’s on you not taxpayers. No vouchers nor loans for anything other than basic tuition.

      I think it’s pure hypocrisy for those who claim to be fiscal conservatives to then advocate for more govt regulation … more govt funding and.. dictating prices to colleges.

      The funny thing here is that the same fiscal conservatives do call for vouchers for K-12 schools but where is that same advocacy for College which is purely optional unlike K-12.

      And take a page from Liberty College – the largest college in Virginia and the US – ..

      I’ll try to turn the heat down a notch but some of ya’ll mistake heat for emphasis…

  18. Interesting meeting as it reminded me of the recent “Go Virginia” effort to figure out where rural Southwest Virginia can find hope. And like the meeting at SCHEV there was little hope out there.in SWVa.
    The present problems in American higher education finances came out of the loose credit decades beginning in the late 1990s. When credit became loose and plentiful states changed their support of colleges and universities. State support in Virginia (and other states) was reduced and institutions were given more freedom to set tuition and fees and mind their own businesses. This left the states with the option of continuing to reduce money as costs went up and up as students could borrow the increased fees and costs.
    This also opened the doors to lots of spending outside instruction. Athletics (How many coaches make more than a million dollars today.) Posh recreation facilities and lots and lots of spending on non-instruction functions have defined the past two decades. .I remember one Virginia university president telling me in 2005 that he had a billion dollars’ worth of new construction under way and “not one penny of state money.”. It was all through bonds to be paid by future students.
    And, as a percentage of total expenditures instruction has declined and declined.
    And, there are no easy answers going down the road.
    The demographics of college age Americans will change dramatically in the decade ahead. States are going to be more and more financially strapped. And, with Virginia having an economy most dependent on federal spending the promise of more state money is not promising.
    A crisis is brewing and like the Chinese character for crisis a crisis has both opportunity and challenge. Someone may see the opportunity.

  19. Online and non-residential Community College are where we are headed. The residential on-campus experience is going to be more and more for folks who want something “more” than just “education”.

    The US is the only place on earth that does College this way – and it’s at gawd-awful cost to taxpayers… because it’s premised on a totally foolish idea where the state basically gives a pot of money to the Colleges and they promise to “keep costs down”.. and beyond that.. the rest of it is the back and forth we see here in BR with folks calling for more “transparency? but what they really want is more ammunition to get the govt to put pressure on the Colleges to spend less and charge less.. so the idea is to let State bureaucrats decide which courses and services.. are “cost-effective” and which are not .. how many janitors.. or professors teaching history, etc…

    where else would all these calls for more transparency actually lead to instead? It all leads back to getting govt more involved. right? This is the same govt that some here call the Clown Show or in the Feds case telling colleges what to do about sexual assaults… etc.

    Do we REALLY want the govt deciding what courses UVA should offer or not?

  20. There are other forms of influence and even coercion than regulators. There is the consumer and, in Virginia’s case, the taxpayer and voter.

    College education and Health it appears are two areas of the economy where costs have spiraled over the past 20 years and the best that could be said is that it hasn’t gotten any better. And that’s kind.

    Having spent more than $400,000 to educate two sons who didn’t qualify for aid — one in a smaller college which promised great student-teacher relationships, knowledge and caring for each student, yada, yada only to produce adjunct professors who couldn’t teach in core curricula, a faculty which rarely had any personal interactions outside of their classrooms, an intellectual environment of intense ideological conformity combined with hostility and disdain for dissidents, and so forth– I have painful experiences of the gap between the rhetoric and the performance of at least two colleges; and I think these were better than most.

    Bacon, it’s a core issue of our time. What about a round table somewhere of your more vocal commenters to discuss strategies for improving the cost/quality issues of secondary education?

    Here are some ideas:
    Universities publish labels on course offerings and in their recruiting and acceptance material identifying:

    1. the courses and class hours which will be taught by and the hour rate per class hour for each (also shown prominently in every classroom with the data for that class hour) stating what refunds and redress which will be paid the student for lapses in these commitments
    a.) graduate students and the hour rate per class hour
    b.) adjunct professors
    c. ) sub-level professors (not full professors)
    d.) full professors

    2. The maximum class size per course.

    3. Student rankings of courses and professors by course and professor;

    4. The number of hours each student will receive in personal meetings with a full professor;

    5. An ideological diversity scorecard showing the vitae, speakers, courses, et al which reflect the student’s options for exposure to different views an ideas

    …and additional consumer metrics by which students and their funders can assess the value proposition offered and delivered.

  21. re: ” There are other forms of influence and even coercion than regulators. There is the consumer and, in Virginia’s case, the taxpayer and voter.”

    Then you proceed to say ” Here are some ideas:
    Universities publish labels on course offerings and in their recruiting and acceptance material identifying:”

    are these voluntary suggestions or govt regulations?

    I actually do agree with the basic idea and I’ve pointed out several times the Federal Govt College Scorecard:

    where people can already determine some basics…

    the data in the College Scorecard is collected from the Colleges by rule already if they receive govt loans… so you’ll see this data for virtually all colleges public, private and for-profit..

    In addition to that there are private sector College search tools like the CollegeToolkit site…

    I don’t see most folks being that interested in the additional metrics you suggest but would not oppose .. just skeptical that it would be used by most people beyond the standard metrics we see in the College Scorecard site.

    So I SUPPORT the idea of having a searchable database like College Scorecard but how does this actually change much with respect to the concerns that most ALL college is too expensive ?

    Or is the idea of the in-the-weeds metrics.. ammunition for people to advocate that colleges not have certain levels of staffing or certain courses, etc?

    Doesn’t this go back to where I said that you don’t want govt telling colleges what courses to offer or not or how many professors to have, etc?

    so what’s the real purpose of metrics you are suggesting if not to force schools to change the way they do business by cutting staff and course offerings?

    Is someone really going to choose to not go to some College because they have more history professors than other colleges or offer some esoteric courses that are deemed “too costly”?

    Isn’t in the end – this some kind of mechanism for external control of the Colleges to force them to make cuts on the theory it will reduce tuition costs?

    Would we include private and for-profit colleges also -if they utilize govt loans?

    I’m just pretty skeptical… about additional metrics beyond the ones that are already included in College Scorecard.

    and AGAIN – I think funding the schools on a premise that they will “try to keep down costs” is a fail and that if you fund the students instead and let THEM use the College Scorecard to find the best “fit” for them.. that “market” will influence what colleges offer – or not – and at what price – far more than any govt bureaucracy will.

  22. Of course the REAL IRONY here is that more than a few of the folks complaining about the cost of college see themselves as fiscal conservatives and , are, in fact, the same ones who consider College to be infested with brain-washing “liberals.. just abusing the heck of higher ed in general!

    Why don’t folks who think this way .. actually get in the business of “College done the right way”… much like FOX News has developed into the “non-liberal” News Network! 😉

    It could maybe start with Liberty or Oral Roberts..

    so here’s a good start for College done the “right way” :

    America’s 20 Best Conservative Colleges

    Hillsdale College.
    Grove City College.
    Biola University.
    University of Dallas.
    Liberty University.
    College of the Ozarks.
    Houston Baptist University.
    Regent University.

    https://thebestschools.org/rankings/20-best-conservative-colleges-america/

    Better yet – these could be turned into publicly-traded Colleges owned and operated by investors and report quarterly on their financial performance.. the salaries of the staff, and how much less they are charging for tuition than their competitors!

    In other words , instead of advocating government control of Colleges – create some real competition to actually offer a superior product for less money!

    • I agree with your logic here, Larry. If conservatives and libertarians are sick of the ideological slant of most higher-ed institutions, they have two options: (1) reform the biased institutions from within, and (2) start their own institutions. Both avenues should be pursued.

    • That mindset (not yours, but those “conservative” schools) is the problem: Almost all of those schools have some root in religion. And that influences their curriculum in almost every discipline. I’m not going to pronounce them “wrong”, but if you oppose “liberal” indoctrination because you don’t feel like it provides differing perspectives, is it any better to found a college that goes the complete opposite direction? That’s the aim of most of these schools. They don’t want students to receive any real exposure to “leftist” ideas/perspectives.

      The silliness of all of this is that people really believe elite institutions are “leftist.” I hate to tell people, but most (not all, but most) of the kids and faculty at Harvard Business School or U.Va. Law School are as pro-market as most on this blog. This “leftists control the academy” argument is simply a right-wing canard. They will find a few outspoken leftists on a faculty and make the absurd argument that these schools are “liberal” or “leftist.”

      Corporations, investment banks, large law firms, and consultancies have more power today than at any other point in American history. Labor unions, regulations, working class politics, etc. are probably at their lowest point at any time in post-Civil War history. Yet somehow, we are to believe that the Ivies and other elite schools are “indoctrinating” students with “leftism.” In fact, all of these powerful private sector interests are largely controlled by grads of these alleged “leftist, socialist” universities.

      In my HBS class, I’d estimate that less than 5% of my graduating class was truly on the “left.” 95% of the class was very pro-market. Outside of one, single solitary professor, every other prof on the faculty was mildly to strongly pro-market. Hardly a hive of Soviet-era collectivism.

      • LocalGovGuy, you’re right that most “alternative” universities have been religious in orientation, with their own set of ideological biases. What I fear is disappearing is the educational experience that I received at UVa 40 years ago, in which most of the professors might have been politically liberal, but they were dedicated to the goal of teaching their students to think rigorously and analytically and independently. I was never condemned for my conservative orientation.

        (My experience at Johns Hopkins University, where I was enrolled in an African history doctoral program was a very different story. The ideological diversity there ranged from Leftist to Marxist. I was truly a fish out of water.)

        Frankly, I don’t know what it’s like at UVa today. I have no direct experience upon which to make a judgment. My sense is that there is more intellectual diversity there than at the institutions where we hear the out-of-control-leftist horror stories. But that may be damning with faint praise.

        • Fair points. I think one thing we need to distinguish is: What is “left”? I look at “left” from an economic perspective. I’d dare say that elite higher ed institutions (The Ivies, Public Ivies, Duke, Chicago, etc.) tilt heavily towards the market in their business, econ, and law schools. There’s not a lot of love for labor, socialism, etc. on those faculties.

          If “left” is cultural….eh….yeah, those institutions are far “left.”

  23. The pressure for higher ed to change has to come from its users (prospective students and in some cases, their parents). The current structure precludes much window shopping with few metrics displayed. The call for transparency need not come from government–we need informed households who can make suitable choice PRIOR to admissions, not after they’ve enrolled, borrowed, dropped out, graduated, only then to learn that they did not receive that which they had hoped. The group that should be protesting the most loudly are households which are excluded financially from higher ed, the group of those who remain outside the realm of higher ed. Systemically, there is no power available to this group, and they are not organized to have a voice. There is room for advocacy/activism here, as a balance to the well-organized Super Lobby of HE presidents.

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