Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going to Market

At the FCC meeting on September 19, 2011 the Provost explained that the market provides the rationale for differential tuition for the business school.  The school will become more competitive by charging higher tuition. 
The Provost does not explain how further enriching the professors and the administrators at the business school will make them better teachers or administrators.  Are they not giving their best efforts to the students right now?  Perhaps the administration hopes that more tuition will enable the business school to hire more "star professors" whose presence will elevate the ranking of the school.  That strategy was tried (and failed) at the medical school.  See Financial Peril at Medical School.

Moreover, what do rankings really tell us about the quality of teaching in the classroom? The administration acknowledges that the rankings of universities are "meaningless." See the conclusion to section (2) of University Inc. Part II. Does not the same conclusion apply to rankings of schools within the University?  

Increasing tuition will make the business school more competitive for the business professors who can increase the gap between their compensation and the compensation of the professors in the liberal arts.  For the students it simply makes an undergraduate degree in business more expensive.
The administration describes tuition as "the revenue stream with the highest potential for significant, long term growth."  See the September 2009 Report of the Future Financial Resources Task Force (Strategy No. 2 on p. 5 of the Report) (emphasis added).  This tone deaf declaration is an expression of an administration that is so far removed from the economic lives of the students and their parents that it is oblivious to the hardship that the current level of tuition imposes on them.
There are alternatives to endless increases in tuition.  See Off Course in Higher Education.
Placing more value on a business education also will accelerate the trend of turning liberal arts education into vocational training.  See Lowering Higher Education:  The Rise of Corporate Universities and The Fall of Liberal Education (University of Toronto Press 2011) by sociology professors James Cote and Anton Allahar of the University of Western Ontario.

The acceleration into vocational training corresponds to the decline in public support for higher education.  If higher education is nothing more than preparation for a career, then it makes sense for the public to demand that more and more of the costs for that training be shifted to the students who will benefit from the training.  This approach turns higher education from a common good into a private enterprise.  See University Inc.

Michael W. McNabb
Attorney at Law 

This contribution comes from my good friend and fellow U of M alum, Mr. Michael McNabb.  He has also paid a lot of tuition for his children at the U.  Thank you Michael. 


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