The More Things Change…

The economic experts and college administrators gathered Friday to discuss how to manage higher education “in uncertain economic times” joked a few times about the debate over whether the United States is in a recession…

The general consensus was that the combination of conditions facing higher education right now — flat or diminished government support, more scrutiny of tuition rates and endowment spending (see related article today), changing student demographics, an unpredictable stock market — add up to making this period one that will be challenging colleges for some time. Many of the solutions discussed weren’t entirely new – outsourcing and merit pay, for example, are hardly revolutionary concepts in higher education. But officials said that colleges may need to push these ideas further than they have in the past — and to extents that they may be controversial.

Scott Jaschik, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 12,2008

If it weren’t so predictable and depressing it would almost be funny. No matter what happens– economic boom or bust– university administrators say the exact same things. In the 1990s, when the economy was flush with the dot com bubble, everything from janitorial services to student unions had to be privatized to keep the university solvent.

Professors had to understand that merit pay– rewarding the ‘most talented’–was the only way to ensure that students received the best education possible. Then, at the turn of the last century things went sour and what was the solution? “Outsourcing and merit pay.” And now, almost a decade later, after years of Bush-neglect and an approaching recession? “Outsourcing and merit pay.”

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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