The Board of Higher Education meets Friday, 6/1/12, in Portland. On the agenda are tuition increases and selection of funding priorities for the 2013-15 budget (which get submitted to next year’s legislature). In looking over the online materials (here), three conclusions are clear: (1) The Board is not providing oversight of the costs of public higher educations in Oregon. (2) The Board has no clear strategy for the survival for public higher education in Oregon or for the current institutions that provide it. And (3) the Board does not even acknowledge that the two megatrends of globalization and digitalization are reshaping businesses, including higher education, around the world.
First, the Board is not providing oversight of costs of public higher educations in Oregon. On page 2 of Appendix A (here), it states:
Finally, costs must be better managed at our institutions, and more efficient delivery models must be added to the program mix to get the maximum return for every dollar invested.
However, there is no evidence that this is being done. Neither Appendix A nor Appendix B (tuition increases) have any discussion of the cost drivers of higher education in Oregon and how they are being managed. Faculty salary increases are controversial (here) but not discussed. Presumably, health care and retirement (PERS) costs are increasing, yet neither they nor their management are discussed. In the context of proposing tuition increases, there is no alternative consideration of possible cost cuts (apart from reducing some student health care costs and fees).
Appendix A has two related charts on the “Average Instructional Costs Per FTE Students” which shows that such cost between 1996 and 2011 increase by 44% compared to Portland Consumer Price Index increasing by 44% during the same period. Higher ed cost increases being just a reassuring 2% more during this period. I’m skeptical. No further information is provided on costs. Just those two charts. That is not enough.
Second, the Board has no clear strategy for the survival of public higher education in Oregon. They seem to be dreaming that someday state government will provide them with more funding. I don’t think it will. They seem to think the 40-40-20 goals and accompanying educational reform efforts will eventually help with such funding. I don’t think so. Public funding, as it becomes available, will go to pre-k and K-12 education where the priorities are. The Board is not dealing with these, to me, realities.
I blogged about UC Berkeley Economics Professor Brad DeLong’s comment (here):
The strategy that Berkeley has settled on is to seek to produce the funding stream necessary to maintain a great University by becoming a finishing school for the superrich of Asia.
The Oregon University System and the Board of Higher Education have no such survival strategy.
Third, public higher education in Oregon needs to adapt as well as survive (and probably needs to adapt to survive). The Board is failing to adapt Oregon higher education to the two megatrends of globalization and digitalization. The Board has had no task force, committee, or even a report on the issues and challenges that online education brings. Nor has the Board done anything to strengthen foreign language, study abroad, or other international programs. The Board's Academic Strategies Committee recent turned down a proposal for "“The Americas in a Globalized World/ Global Oregon Initiative” that wanted to make Oregon known for its "pragmatic internationalism" (here). The Board has no other globalization or internationalization initiatives.
The Board is just not in synch with the big changes happening in the world.