Academics reeling as market discipline comes to the University of Wisconsin

Thomas Lifson writes that “the reckoning is coming.”

The cohorts of students headed for colleges and universities is declining, and tuition has now priced itself beyond reach for many. The folly of student loan indebtedness is becoming clear to more and more young people and their parents.

At the same time

[…] online higher education is available for a tiny fraction of the cost of physical presence on a campus[.]

He concludes

No doubt, those who celebrate this transition will be castigated as anti-intellectual barbarians. But the real barbarians are those who drove academia into self-absorbed obsessions of the left, making it irrelevant to the needs of students, while overloading their schools with administrative dead weight that has pushed up tuition to unaffordable levels.

All is proceeding as Glenn Reynolds predicted in his book.

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

The HBS professor is Clayton Christensenm, whom I hold in high regard. One of his contributions is understanding how technology is disruptive to businesses. The disruptive technology affecting colleges is online education. Basically, he believes “online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.” See this article.

Perverse Incentives in Science: 21st Century Funding for 20th Century Research

For years colleagues and I have talked about problems with research funding today. (It wasn’t this way–or not this acute–when I started this job.) I recent paper from the intrepid Martin Center explain this quite well. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Our institutions are dominated by those doing science in the current paradigm. Which is what we should in fact expect. But that means that most funding sources—whether government or private—are going to be conservative and fund the already-established rather than investigations into something that may not work out. And scientists tend to protect their turf against new ideas that could replace them.

To get more money, universities start rewarding researchers for getting grant funding for the institution, meaning scientists are spending more time grant writing and less time in the lab, doing actual science.

Read the whole thing.

Is bigger better?

Universities are in an amenities arms race. Our university is no exception. In fact, it may be one of the most effected. Read this brief article. There is no question that we are improving our national reputation regarding amenities. However, it is not clear that all will end well. Our numerous capital improvements are driving costs up at a time when students and families may be least able to absorb the increase.