13 August 2009

The future of the university

Very interesting debate over at Remaking the University between Chris Newfield and David Hollinger concerning the different models for the future of the UC. Under the heading "Should Berkeley be Michigan?" we have the outlines of a proposal coming (not surprisingly) from a group of Berkeley faculty.

The proposal calls for increased enrollment of out-of-state students (who pay much higher tuition than CA residents) up to 20% of total enrollment at UCB. The proposal also unequivocally calls for some sort of privatization on the Michigan model for the top tier UC campuses UCB, UCLA and perhaps UCSD). There might indeed be something to be said for the idea to let the flagships go.

But one of the points made by Newfield is one ought to be careful what one wishes for — because one might get it. In particular, once you start charging higher tuition you lose the price advantage over the privates and then you have to start competing with Duke, Stanford, etc., at the level of their student facilities and other (expensive) amenities. And of course, as a bit of a counterpoint, there is always the chance that education might be the next bubble to pop. When tightening credit markets, people might decide that taking out a loan for $30K to $50K a year for four years might not be the wisest thing to do. If that were the case, this privatizatuon scheme might well turn out to be the higher-ed equivalent of CDSs and CMOs.

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