Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Top 2020 Democrats on Higher Education

Rachelle Peterson

The top Democratic presidential candidates' positions on higher education reveal they fail to grasp the fundamental questions of what college is for and why intellectual freedom matters.

Texas Association of Scholars Supports the PROSPER Act

NAS

The Texas affiliate of NAS writes to Congress in support of the PROSPER Act.

How The Great Society Made a Mess of Higher Education

Spencer Kashmanian

"LBJ's federal interventions created a system in which students are the greatest losers."

Under the Ivy

Peter Wood

Ivy League universities picked up $41.59 billion in taxpayer-funded payments. How do these universities spend their share of the public purse? 

The Case for Income Share Agreements

David Randall

An alternative to student loans, ISAs allow for private investors to pay a student's tuition for returns in future income.

And We Shall Not All Be Dentists

Amy L. Wax

Amy L. Wax and Isaac N. Cohen review the book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality.

Doubts, Deficits, Divestments, and Developments: A Higher Education Bubble Update

Ashley Thorne

CFOs lack confidence in their institutions' financial sustainability, Loyola University fails to enroll enough students to make budget, and the University of Wisconsin announces a "flexible option" for college credit.

International Branch Campuses: Wise Investments or Just a Fad?

George Leef

Do the benefits of international branch campuses outweigh the costs?

Galloping to Insolvency

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews a recent report that found that a third of American colleges and universities have unhealthy financial outlooks.

Letting the Higher Ed Crisis Go to Waste

George Leef

In California, shrinking budgets and enrollment numbers could have been the occasion for a redirection -- raising standards and trying to regain focus on the core mission of higher education.

Green Acres

Peter Wood

Colleges and universities tend to spend lavishly on diversity and sustainability initiatives, but is this really the best use of their (and taxpayers') money?

Universities Neglect Financial Sustainability

Ashley Thorne

Mission creep in higher education turns out to have some serious monetary consequences for individual institutions. A new study urges college and university leaders to get back to the core and stop trying to be an all-purpose operation.

The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

Richard Vedder

NAS Board member Richard Vedder discusses the probable reasons for continually rising college costs.

Princeton and Urbana Universities: A Tale of Two Schools

Richard Vedder

Tax policies favor rich colleges, even though small, struggling liberal-arts colleges probably make far better use of incremental private donations, says Richard Vedder.

Social Justice Revival?

Glenn Ricketts

Whatever “social justice” is, it’s certainly not poor.

US Education Dept. Flunks Statisitics 101

Glenn Ricketts

Preparing a report for possible use in analyzing eligibility for student loans by race, the Department of Education forgot to include African American default data. Mr. Ricketts wonders why.

Are College Presidents Paid Too Much? NAS's Herb London Weighs In

Ashley Thorne

Herb opines that some presidents may deserve the high salaries they receive, but often their income can hurt morale at a university if faculty members perceive it as unfairly extravagant. 

Historian Victor Davis Hanson on American Higher Ed

George Leef

Former Cal State Fresno history professor Victor Davis Hanson writes here about the sad history of American higher ed over the last 50 years. He refers to "the Fannie and Freddie university" meaning that higher ed has been politicized, subsidized and over-expanded due to government intervention.

Profitable Nonprofits

George Leef

Professor Vance Fried in “Federal Higher Education Policy and the Profitable Nonprofits” argues that nonprofit colleges act like profit-making enterprises, but they simply spend their excess revenues in ways that keep the people in and around them happy — the faculty and administrators primarily. 

The Double Whammy

George Leef

Jay Schalin writes about the phenomenon of entities that live off taxpayer money using some of that money to lobby for still more money. Specifically, he’s looking at the University of North Carolina, which pays out a lot of money every year to hire people to plead its case in the halls of the General Assembly.

Reasons for College Inefficiency: Misallocation and Underutilization

George Leef

The U.S. devotes a lot of resources to higher education but gets a pretty low return, argues Richard Vedder. 

UNC System Continues Building Spree

George Leef

Will Jakes writes about the continuing building spree in the UNC system. Is this a good use of resources? It's very questionable.

Professor Decries Administrative Bloat

George Leef

The latest "Irascible Professor" piece is a guest column by Ralph Westfall, who teaches at Cal Poly Pomona. He decries the increasingly bloated administrative apparatus -- more and more administrators, often paid better than the teaching faculty.

How to Save the Social Sciences

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood explains how to approach NSF funding in the social sciences during a national budgetary crisis.

Peter Wood is Witness at Hearing on Value of Social Sciences to Taxpayers

Ashley Thorne

Peter Wood urged for "cuts to be made shrewdly" to national funding for the social sciences.

Video: Peter Wood on Higher Ed Reform

At "Higher Education Reform: Where the Right and the Left Meet," NAS president Peter Wood spoke about what's wrong with higher ed and what we can do to fix it.

The UNC System Finally Takes a Budget Hit

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Jay Schalin writes about this year's budget battle in North Carolina, in which the UNC system, despite all its friends in high places, taken a hit. Evidently, the old "spend more on higher ed and the state will prosper" argument has finally run out of steam.

Budget Cuts Loom for "Frivolous" Language Programs

Ashley Thorne

Will reduced federal funding for Title VI foreign language study hurt national competence or help cut academic waste?

Federal Student Aid Helps Colleges, Not Students

George Leef

That is the finding of a recent study done by Robert Martin and Andrew Gillen for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and I write about it in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call. 

College Costs More Because States are Defunding It

George Leef

So goes one of the standard explanations for the continual rise in the cost of going to college. In this Cato@Liberty post, Neal McCluskey tears it apart. Until recently, college and university leaders found it fairly easy to get money from politicians and donors and they delighted in spending it. As Thomas Sowell has observed, when college leaders spend more money, they claim that their costs have increased, thus justifying still more appropriations and requiring yet more giving and higher tuition. With state budgets deep in the red, family portfolios down, and increased skepticism that college is such a good "investment" for everyone, the easy livin' is over.

Needless Educational Credential -- The JD

George Leef

In this Washington Examiner piece, lawyer Hans Bader, a Harvard Law School grad, argues that law school is unnecessary and that people who wish to go into legal practice should be allowed to study for the bar exam as they wish. Law school is a high barrier to entry that does not ensure competence.

Cutting Oversized State University Budgets Down to Size

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about the need to pare down North Carolina's spending on higher education in the face of a large budget deficit.

Higher Education: Public Good or Public Bad?

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw considers the question whether higher education is a “public good.” In economics parlance, public goods are goods that the free market either would not produce at all or would at best under-produce. Are colleges and universities like that? 

Federal Aid Helps Schools, Not Students

George Leef

That's among the arguments Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward makes in this piece.

A Radical Proposal for Re-Structuring Higher Ed

robkoons

Pajamas Media has posted an article by "Publius Audax" proposing nineteen radical reforms. which force on us the question: is there any other way to restore teaching as the fundamental mission of the academy?

Do We Really Want to "Stabilize" State University Funding?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I take a critical look at a proposal made in the Nov. 23 Wall Street Journal by University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere. He repeats the usual lines about how the US is becoming less well educated since fewer young people are obtaining college degrees, rapidly rising tuition, and falling state appropriations to conjure up a scenario meant to alarm Oregonians. He wants them to "save" the University of Oregon through a plan whereby the legislature would borrow half of the endowment he thinks is needed to "stabilize" funding. My contention is that this is a bad deal for taxpayers. It only saves U of O officials from having to compete for tax dollars, along with many other possible uses of money. Everyone would like to have guaranteed revenues and escape the need to persuade people to buy or donate. We get better results, however --more efficient use of resources--when decision makers have to worry that if they aren't doing a good job, people will say "no."

More Ideas for Reducing the Cost of College

Ashley Thorne

Here's the next installment (chapters 6-12) from our CCAP friends in their report, “25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College.” We at NAS especially appreciate #6. And we recently published a major article on #10 in Academic Questions. 6. Reduce Administrative Staff 7. Cut Unnecessary Programs 8. End the “Athletics Arms Race” 9. Overhaul the FAFSA 10. Eliminate Excessive Academic Research 11. Streamline Redundant Programs at the State Level 12. Promote Collaborative Purchasing

Accreditation and Educational Quality

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I discuss the recent study done by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on higher ed accreditation. The authors conclude that college accreditation served some useful purposes back in the day when it was voluntary, but now that federal policy has made it almost mandatory (schools aren't able to accept federal student aid money unless they have been given the stamp of approval by a "recognized" accrediting body), its value is questionable. I think they're correct. Accreditation does virtually nothing to ensure educational quality, but it does impose substantial costs, more implicit than explicit. It also raises a significant barrier to entry into higher education by new and innovative providers. Until we cut the Gordian Knot and get the feds out of financing education, we ought to find a better means of keeping people from using Pell Grants to purchase bogus degrees from colleges that only offer a pretense of education. Accreditation is a poor tool for accomplishing that.

Colleges Just Can't Avoid Rising Costs

George Leef

That, anyway, is an explanation we sometimes hear from the higher education establishment. Colleges are supposedly helpless victims of rising costs, particular because rising productivity elsewhere in the economy increases the opportunity costs of faculty members to remain in the education sector. In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, economics professor Robert Martin takes a very dim view of a new book that sets forth that exculpatory argument. Martin refutes it, then gives his own explanation for rising costs, which implicates administrative bloat and declining faculty productivity. Martin's own book on this subject will be published early next year by Edward Elgar.

"How Much Higher Should We Set the Prices for Next Year?"

Ashley Thorne

Peter Wood gives some insight into how colleges and universities answer that question.

Academic Retrenchment and Political Strategies in New York

Publius

A call to readers to contact New York's gubernatorial candidates about the massive cuts to foreign language at SUNY Albany.

Higher Education's Obesity Problem: Administrative Bloat

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the recent study released by the Goldwater Institute on administrative bloat in higher education. Almost everyone laments the increasing cost of going to college, but they usually ask next, "How can we help students afford it" when the question should be, "Are resources being spent wisely?" Is the profusion of new administrators (generally paid quite nicely to boot) doing much to better educate students? Or is it more the case that they're hired because non-profit institutions must spend all the revenue that comes in and the decision-makers are inclined to spend it in ways that makes life better for them? The Goldwater study introduces a "public choice" element into the analysis of higher education and that's welcome.

You Lose Weight, I'll Donate

Ashley Thorne

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that an anonymous, 117-pound, 87-year-old donor has struck a deal with Stevens College. She'll donate $1 million to her alma mater if the college's 200 employees lose 250 pounds collectively by January 1, 2011, "and if the president, Dianne M. Lynch, sheds at least 25 pounds, the donor will add $100,000 to her gift." Lynch is taking the challenge in stride: "It's about investing in the people who work at this college." And so employees at the Missouri women's college are starting their diets. According to the Chronicle, President Lynch said, "Sometimes you just need that extra push, and a million dollars is one giant push." It's one giant push alright. What if the employees lose a mere 249 pounds? If they fall short and forfeit the million, there will be finger-pointing. I  keep imagining that one employee who couldn't seem to do her part. Just think, not only are you not losing weight, but everyone you work with also hates you. And you cost your college a million dollars. Talk about a miserable life in store for the curvy among the Stevens staff. In the end, everyone loses--either pounds or a million dollars. This could get interesting.

Financially Failing Colleges

Ashley Thorne

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that 150 colleges have failed the Department of Education's test of financial responsibility this year. That means these colleges could be in danger of either closing or being bought by for-profit entities. Last year 114 colleges were on this list, and at least one - Dana College - did not survive.

Click on the chart below to see the Chronicle's interactive map of failing institutions for the last three years.

Is Higher Education Facing Economic Peril?

Herbert London

NAS board member Herbert London suggests ways colleges and universities can save money in this time of budget cuts.

To Sustain Stony Brook, Sustainability Campus Will Close

Ashley Thorne

Stony Brook University has announced that it will close its sustainability campus in Southampton due to budget cuts. Is it a ruse to recover funding or is the sustainability stronghold crumbling?

March Forth

Peter Wood

Today thousands of students at universities around the country and especially on California campuses are rallying to protest tuition hikes in public higher education. College costs have indeed become exorbitant, but is this the right way to confront the excess?

Yes Minister and Foreign Students

Ashley Thorne

Carol Iannone, the Editor-at-Large of our journal Academic Questions, writes in:

Recently I just happened upon the DVDs of Yes, Minister, an absolutely superb British comedy series from the 1980s about a Cabinet Minister and his canny civil servant undersecretary.  Each episode is funny and amazingly intelligent and well written, satirizing some aspect of British government bureaucracy and its darkly comical failure to fulfill the public's needs. One episode concerned higher education, with lots of amusing details about the way it works in Britain.  (Oxford seems to be the alma mater of the greater part of the senior civil service, although not necessarily of the elected officials.)  One of the Oxford colleges is running out of money because the government has withdrawn the allowance for foreign students, a considerable 4000 pounds.  When asked why they don't take more British students, the dons express disdain at the mere 500 pounds that British natives get for attendance at Oxford. This reminded me that an interested friend informed me not long ago that American community colleges take foreign students.  He pointed out how irregular that is.  When you think about it, there is nothing in the stated aims and mission of the community college network, not to mention in the meaning of the word "community," that should entail accepting foreign students.  Could it also have something to do with the money, as in Yes, Minister?  Government money?  Or the money paid straight out by the foreign students themselves, or perhaps by their governments?

Privatize State Fine Arts Education

George Leef

North Carolina is one of three states with a government-run fine arts education institution. The UNC School of the Arts was created back in 1965 by politicians who thought it would be a good thing to somehow change the state's stereotype as a "good old boy" cultural wasteland and bring cultural uplift to large numbers of North Carolinians. The Pope Center is releasing (tomorrow, officially) a new paper that takes a critical look at the school and concludes that it ought to be privatized, thereby saving taxpayer money for other things and probably improving its operations to boot. In this week's Clarion Call, I comment on the paper.

Less May Be More

Mitchell Langbert

Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the  faculty union of the City University of New York (CUNY), circulated an e-mail asking union members to protest creation of a fifth pension tier that would reduce pension accruals for future New York State workers.  The bill might reduce CUNY's and SUNY's competitiveness in attracting new faculty. Two flies in President Bowen's ointment are the state's parlous economic condition and current benefit structure. CUNY retirees still receive retiree health benefits, unlike two-thirds of the 2005 American workforce, according to the Kaiser Foundation, with a lower percentage today.   But between 2000 and 2007 1.5 million New Yorkers exited the State as tax increases made $1,000 per month burdens on homeowners common and jobs fled. Stock market bubbles have subsidized New York. Even if the stock market does return,  the St. Louis Fed reports  potentially inflationary increases in the money supply. The State's Constitution forbids reduction of accrued retirement benefits.  However, it does not require a crystal ball to consider that pension and health insurance bills may lead to bankruptcy.  This occurred in the mid-1970s.  The State has been resuscitated by a 30-year long Wall Street bubble, but the public will protest the bubbly monetary expansion should inflation accelerate. At that point, retiree health insurance and other future and non-funded benefits are likely to become a thing of the past.  If the state does not get costs under control, collapse is possible.  If so, CUNY faculty will say goodbye to retiree health insurance.

Endangered Colleges

Ashley Thorne

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a list of 114 private non-profit colleges that failed the Department

Sandefer Exaggerates

Peter Wood

Two-thirds of every dollar spent for American higher education goes to research?

Shopping Spree

Peter Wood

Higher education needs to spend many unbudgeted billions by the end of this month. Will you help?

Thirteen Is A Start

Peter Wood

The NAS applauds the Chronicle of Higher Education's awakening to the systematic "mistakes" of American colleges and universities.

Art for Gold

Peter Wood

Cash flow collides with the higher things at Brandeis.

Deferred Maintenance

Peter Wood

A call for financial accountability in higher education

Asking a Lot

Peter Wood

A broadly advertised appeal for higher education's share of the bailout falls apart upon close examination.

Good Sports

Peter Wood

How the college sports industry undermines higher education

America's Financial Crisis and Higher Education

Peter Wood

Student loans going the way of home mortgages could have serious consequences for the university. A call to academe to pay attention to what's going on in American finance.

Working Out a Deal

Could Harvard be accommodating Muslim women's request for women-only gym time as an obligation to Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed?

Fortunes from Foreigners

We encourage you to send us information you deem relevant, concerning full disclosure of large foreign gifts. We invite you to be attentive to this matter at both your current universities of contact and your own alma mater.