Changing Higher Education


University of Tennessee law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds links to this article on the University of North Carolina facing big budget cuts and as a result perhaps losing a substantial pat of its workforce, not to mention tons of classes.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — University of North Carolina officials say a 7 percent budget reduction could mean a loss of almost 1,700 jobs and the cancellation of hundreds of classes over the system’s 16 campuses.

Leaders of the statewide university system have been working to accommodate an anticipated 7 percent budget cut. The state funds the universities and is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Saturday that the job cuts would include about 660 faculty positions. University system leaders say as many as half the 1,679 positions that would be eliminated are currently filled.

The cuts would mean that many courses would have to be canceled and class size would increase. And more classes would be taught by part-time instructors rather than full-time professors.

This, of course, is part of the “higher education bubble” that he has also mentioned before, but instead of worrying me like the housing and credit bubbles worried me I actually welcome this one.  An education at a four year university is, in most cases, highly overvalued these days. With the exception of a few Ivy League type schools where just the name on the diploma adds to its worth, most schools cost way too much and give less and less of a return on the student’s investment. So maybe cutting back on courses is a good thing. Students can attend a much cheaper community colleges for their first two years and then transfer to the streamlined big schools for their advanced courses, still earning that diploma, but saving thousands in the bargain.

That’s the way I did it and the only difference between me and a guy who spent four years at my alma mata was the size of my school loan debt.

Yes,  staff would have to be cut, including tenured teaching positions, but local community colleges would  need to add jobs to deal with the new students, so it might even out (especially by dropping all those big salaries to professors who rarely do any teaching anyway).  But if done correctly and, without all the costly pomp and circumstance offered by four year universities, community colleges would still be able to provide commuting students a good basic two year education at a greatly reduced cost, which naturally reduces their overall debt after they ultimately graduate from the “big” school of their choice.

Having two boys in college now and one heading that way in a few years, anything that lowers the cost of college is a good thing in my mind.

Oh, I should note that I recognize that the one of the biggest hurdles here are the four year sports programs, especially football and basketball.  I don’t know enough about how that all works money-wise, but I do know that parents of talented high school athletes everywhere will start freaking if they can’t get their kids sports scholarships to these big schools.  Not to mention the fans.  Still, budget cuts as state universities seem like a sure thing so they better figure something out.



  1. We’re sweating it out here in Memphis waiting on Gov Bredeson to announce next years budget. We already know cuts are coming. Tennessee’s problems are resulting from reliance on state sales tax revenue which can be poor during recessions. I am in favor of a state income tax to provide more consistent funding for the state.

    Athletic budgets receive quite a bit of money from private donors (alumni and friends with lots of bucks like Fred “FedEx” Smith. Ticket sales are another revenue source. Not sure what kind of state funding they get …. maybe some for facility funding and maintenance ?

    At any rate … the budget looks bleak.
    Pay cuts and furloughs are being discussed.

  2. I’m assuming that your skill set would be needed at a number of schools or businesses and I believe that community colleges would pick up the job slack without all the overhead that big schools have. Or I could be wrong. I’m not advocating cuts at schools, only pointing out that students can get their first two years of basic courses much cheaper than they are paying now.

    What does a college football coach get these days? One, two, three, four million? That would pay a lot of staff salaries.

  3. Your idea of 2 years at a community college is a good model for cost savings. Especially if it is close enough to commute daily.

    Online courses are another way of earning credits at a more affordable cost.

    I’m amazed at the changes in college since we were there … we thought having a calculator was a big necessity. Nowadays, most kids have their own laptop computers. Email, Facebook, blogs, webcams … the internet has opened a Pandora’s box.

  4. Maybe it’s time you Americans realise that good Universities (just as well as healthcare) should be public, just like in rest of the world (including France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Korea … not to forget China, of course). All you have to do is to add a couple of percent extra income taxes. Don’t tell me students in these countries are not educated well. You will have to change your way of thinking, mate. Why? Because country which educates (or provides health treatment to) people based on their wealth is not going to go forward in the long run.

  5. It’s the public universities that are in trouble, not the private ones. Obviously you are ignorant of the fact that the vast majority of education (from grade school to college) in this country is public already and that we spend billions in tax dollars on it already. Yes, we also charge tuition for college, but for the life of me I cannot see how raising taxes on everyone for college whether they go or not is better than charging a tuition to those who do go.

    The problem is not the money, the problem is how it is being used and the liberal educational polices that are in place. And as to health care, please name ONE national health care system that is worth a darn.

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