Mitch Daniels, who taught the Republican Party valuable lessons in management as a successful and highly popular two-term governor of Indiana, is now doing the same for academia as president of Purdue University.
For the third year in a row, Purdue has frozen tuition rates. President Daniels (I know, it has a nice ring to it, but let that go) explained how he did it. As USA Today explained, “There was no secret sauce, just a little sensible pruning that would be ordinary in the business world but seems alien in much of academia, where a steady flow of federal aid guarantees a steady flow of students at seemingly any price.” Purdue consolidated some of its administrative positions. It chose a higher-deductible health care plan. It cut food service costs by switching providers and hiring part-time students to do work formerly performed by full-time employees. It short, it acted as if cared about consumer (i.e., student) satisfaction.
Republican governors of Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida have called for $10,000 degrees at their public universities. Not $10,000 per year, but $10,000 total, which would return college, inflation-adjusted, to what it cost in the 1970s.
Kamenetz urges that a combination of online courses, fewer nonacademic perks, cutting administrative bloat, and focusing on graduation–not just enrollment rates–would make college what it should be — a boon for the poor and middle class. The current system, which burdens taxpayers, graduates and — most painfully — dropouts, with massive debt, is uneconomic, unjust, and unsustainable.
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