Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Devolving public universities

Article by Christopher Newfield in radical philosophy (UK) #CFHE
It is easy enough to be fatalistic about the current funding situation in higher education. US public universities have locked themselves into a model that has led to the slashing of public funding off and on for thirty years and that has been forcing public universities towards an ever-growing dependence on private money. This funding model rests on (though is not limited to) the 'high tuition/high aid' paradigm, in which tuition is to be pushed up rapidly – it's now between $15,000 and $20,000 for in-state students at many leading public universities – with offsets for needy students that come through financial aid, and a vast pool of student loans whose total volume last year surpassed the country's aggregate credit card debt.1 

Oddly enough, the unsustainability of the overall financial system that became obvious in 2008 has for the moment made that system politically stronger. The same has happened to the American funding model for higher education (AFM). Its clear failure to maintain necessary revenues has only increased its power over the educational mission. In the incumbent model's weakness lies its strength. In the strength of the criticisms lies their futility. Hence our widespread fatalism.

A broken funding model 

Read the rest here; see also preview and brief commentary at reclaim UC"provisional home of the College of Debtors in Defiance"
A new article from Chris Newfield about public universities and the "American Funding Model" (AFM) whose primary effect has been to shift "public university revenues to a specific kind of private source, for three decades. Voters are often told that the shift means that wealthy donors and research sponsors have picked up a big part of the educational bill, but this is simply not true. The AFM means shifting educational costs from the overall population to students and their families. The model also shifts costs from old to young, and in California from a 70 per cent white voting public to a 70 per cent student-of-colour secondary-school population."


  1. E.P. Thompson presaged this in his work "The Business University" in 1970. It's been a downhill slide for four decades.

  2. Thanks for heads up, I've read a lot of EP Thompson but did not recall this so went a-searching for and found the article , originally published in The New Statesman

    But the trend goes back further: Veblen wrote about business and higher education too in The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men, 1918 (albeit not from the same perspective).

    Devolution takes a while, years of ignoring the warning signs


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