Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Academic Bankruptcy - a warning from the United States

I read (via @gsiemens) an article by Marc C. Taylor in the New York Times On-line, a warning on academic bankruptcy in the United States. Taylor writes...

Government support [for third level education] is being slashed, endowments and charitable giving are down, debts are piling up, expenses are rising and some schools are selling their product for two-thirds of what it costs to produce it. You don’t need an M.B.A. to know this situation is unsustainable.

There are clear warnings here for the US, and anyone from Ireland reading this will be familiar with the points that Taylor makes. The Leaving Certificate results are out today - most of the students who have got their results will be waiting nervously to see if they have done well enough to go on to College. More want to go to College than ever - yet there is less money to pay for their education. Our Colleges (including NCI) are working with lower budgets, and are expected to provide more education with less resources. Now we all have to do "our bit" in Recession, and there is certainly room for cost savings to be made across the third level sector in Ireland. Taylor makes the points (that are certain to become topics for discussion here in Ireland), that Colleges are now competing (sometimes aggressively) against one another for a shrinking pool of revenue, that there is a lot of duplication of course offerings (In today’s world, it no longer makes sense for every school to cover every subject), and that students (and no doubt their parent's) debt is exploding. Taylor states that Universities [and Colleges] should be looking for new ways to provide high-quality education to more students at a lower price, but other that proposing partnerships, does not explore in depth how they should do this.

The future is dark, but it is up to us all - academics, students, parents, and government, to make it bright. How to do this? - I don't know. We (Ireland) don't have enough money to do "everything", and I think we are gradually been weaned off the idea that we can continue to provide top class education (plus health service and social welfare) without making cuts - You don’t need an M.B.A. to know this situation is unsustainable.

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