“I think right now we are in a very good place to change higher education.” – Mackinac Center
University costs seem to keep skyrocketing. Jenna Ashley Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, offers a simple solution: hold schools accountable when their students fail to repay their debts. I told him about his idea for the Overton Window podcast.
His solution would mean universities pay a financial cost if their students fail to graduate and find gainful employment. “The way to keep college costs down is to make sure colleges have their skin in the game,” she said. “It aligns the incentives. Right now, the only motivation in colleges is to put as many hot bodies as possible in the seats and keep them there for as long as possible.
The idea would lead school administrators to care more about quality than quantity. It would encourage them to care about student success, timely graduation and the quality of the jobs they get after graduation, Robinson said.
It would also encourage better competition among colleges on costs. “Honestly, schools don’t compete much on cost. It’s because the costs are often hidden, ”she said. Schools present student aid programs that include tuition reductions, discounts, scholarships, and available loans. “The result is always zero,” she said. They market the idea that the sticker price is not the actual price. Therefore, there is little competition for the highest tuition fee amounts.
When asked if there was more competition for quality, she replied, “Sort of? Schools compete for their US News and World Report rankings, but these are largely based on the school’s reputation. Colleges try to have big sports teams, nice dorms, big medical centers, but rarely lure students by telling them how much they are going to learn.
However, it would be difficult to get his idea through Congress. Universities are very popular and are important parts of many lawmakers, and they don’t want to be responsible for their student loans. “It would definitely push Overton’s window,” she said.
She works to help state universities – especially those in North Carolina, where the James G. Martin Center is located – make better decisions. One of the things she recommends is improving state taxpayer funding for state universities with a few changes she pushed. Schools receive taxpayer funding largely based on enrollment. (We note that this is better than Michigan’s current model, where funding is based on policy.) Unfortunately, this encourages universities to accept people who are unlikely to graduate.
Robinson and his colleagues have made progress. For example, state lawmakers now base funding on actual enrollment data rather than their guesses. State universities now receive less money when they enroll fewer students, and this hasn’t always been the case.
She recommends bonuses for “diploma-related expenses,” which reward schools for graduating on time. But she is afraid of using the wrong formula. “If you only measure graduation rates, that really gives universities an incentive to make their courses more flexible and make it easier for them to pass,” she said.
Robinson believes persistence is the key to seeing his recommendations implemented. “It took 10 years to really put every free speech violation under the nose of the North Carolina legislature before they realized they had to tackle the problem.” College officials would kick people off campus for handing out constitutions. Administrators are said to refuse certain student clubs or prohibit them from using campus buildings. Robinson and his colleagues would remind lawmakers that there is something they can do when these incidents happen. And finally, the Martin Center and its allies got lawmakers to pass laws to protect free speech on campus.
They were also successful in preventing the tuition fee hike. “Here in North Carolina, we are in the fifth year of a tuition freeze. And so that’s a really positive result here, ”she said.
“The costs are still too high. Taxpayers are bearing too much of the burden here in North Carolina, but it is a step in the right direction.
We also talked about what the university would look like if its idea were adopted, other factors that increase the cost of the university and the learning market for itself. She even pokes fun at the modern university poster of excess: The Lazy River.
Check out the conversation on the Overton Window podcast, available on iTunes and Spotify.
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