A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

October 23, 2009
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Today’s Inside Higher Ed. contains an interview with James C. Garland, author of Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities. In the interview Garland discusses the economic difficulties that many public universities currently face, among them declining faculty salaries, dramatic rises in tuition costs, and deferred maintenance that “far exceeds state renovation budgets.” More than just fallout from the nation’s worst recession since the ’30s, as Garland argues “the historic economic model—ample public subsidies resulting in affordable tuition—has broken down and cannot be fixed. The current economic crisis has obviously accelerated the decline, but even after the economy recovers I believe there will be no turning back the clock.”
Thus in Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities Garland offers readers a timely and comprehensive “rescue plan” for America’s public universities that would tie university revenues to their performance and exploit the competitive pressures of the academic marketplace to control costs, rein in tuition, and make schools more responsive to student needs.
In the interview Garland cites four elements to his approach including: turning public universities into autonomous state-owned entities governed by independent boards of trustees; pushing states to redirect taxpayer dollars that previously subsidized campuses to fund grants and scholarships only to eligible students; streamline campus decision-making through financial incentives to encourage professors and administrators to use their time more productively; and lastly, revamping the methods for selecting presidents, chancellors, and trustees to mimic the more informed and rigorous procedures at private institutions.
To find out more about Garland’s plan for saving alma mater, read the full interview on the Inside Higher Ed. website and read an excerpt from the book.
Also see the author’s blog.

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