Monday, December 22, 2008

The Paradox of the State University

A large swath of American institutions of higher learning are hugely dependent on tuition to cover expenses. This includes a sizable percentage of private institutions, including fairly elite ones such as St. Olaf College. But this also is the lot of many small state schools, such as my own, that do not draw in huge amounts of state money because they are not big enough to make up more than a negligible representation in state funding formulas. So the irony is that while increasingly applicants are giving schools like mine a second look, these schools are also finding our budgets cut preemptively out of a fear of what might happen. We are actually doing a good job of drawing students, are holding up our end of the bargain, as it were, and yet soon enough will be asked to do more with less. And of course as well all know from the last season of The Wire, you never do more with less, admin-speak notwithstanding. You do less with less.

3 comments:

Slicer said...

If you have some time, I would search recent articles about the University of Vermont's current budget crisis at burlingtonfreepress.com. I think the last figure I saw was something in the neighborhood of $15-20 million in the red for next year's budget, and it is pretty scary all the different cuts they are considering. Executive compensation, sadly, has not been mentioned.

Vermont state government is in dire straights right now too, with mandatory furloughs and reduced workweeks a very real possibility.

dcat said...

Slice --
That's stunning, and alas, Vermont is not alone. Right now Texas is in ok shape for now for a couple of reasons -- one, we have not yet been hit as hard by the economic crisis as other states. Two, we are looking at a vast demographic explosion of students, so we will at least have that foundation of tuition monies.
Some places with large endowments, such as my alma mater, are seeing literally hundreds of millions of dollars lost, up to 40% in some cases, but those places are able to weather the storm even if they are certainly having to tighten their belts as well.

dcat

Slicer said...

DCAT-
I read an article a while back, probably a year ago, I think in Fortune magazine or something similar about various institutions with large endowments that were starting to invest portions of said endowments in the very lucrative but very risky hedge funds. A number of the NESCAC schools' endowments were listed; in a word, wow. In any event, one has to hope that whatever administrative bodies overseeing these endowments knew when it was a good time to cut their losses.