Uncontrite College Presidents

With the cost of  bachelor degrees continuing to soar far higher than the rate of inflation, you might assume that college presidents would be reevaluating the tuition arms race.

Surely during these hard times, institutions must be thinking of ways to shrink costs in a meaningful way.

Maybe not.

An education think tank, which conducted in-depth interviews with two dozen college presidents, recently released a report that showed that there couldn’t be more of a disconnect between administrators and parents who are desperately trying to figure out how to pay for college.

Remarkably the college presidents thought that the problems facing colleges and universities today must be largely fixed by others. Here’s a summary of what they said:

  • Government needs to reinvest more money into higher ed institutions.
  • Students and families need to pay higher tuition and fees.
  • Private industry needs to kick in cash through partnerships and philanthropy.

What about cutting back? The report says that the college presidents believe they have already done much of what they can do to become cost-effective!

To be fair, I think the financial straits of public universities, which are getting far less help from state governments, has put them in a horrible position. In contrast, colleges that are charging $40,000 or more for tuition have a lot of explaining to do.

If colleges don’t adapt to the times, one anonymous college president suggested that the higher ed industry will become as short-sighted as the beleagured auto industry. Here’s what he had to say:

Years ago I heard a speaker from the auto industry who asked, “What happened to the auto industry in the 1970s?” It wasn’t bad design. It wasn’t planned obsolescence. It wasn’t unions. Fundamentally, it was hubris. It was a belief that the American automobile industry had always build the best vehicles, always would and the public would buy whatever we built. We saw our problem not as a product problem but as a marketing problem.

That’s a classic example of a very, very mature industry losing touch with the people they’re serving. I sometimes believe that higher education has to be cautious of the same kind of problem.

Learn dozens of ways to cut the cost of college by reading The College Solution.

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