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A Budget Whine

10 Jun Posted by in Business | Comments Off on A Budget Whine

I just came back from my first-ever meeting with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, linked to our accreditation review two years hence. I had a number of reactions concerning what in some respects is a more interesting organization than I had realized, but prudence dictates some restraint. I was however impressed with a theme, or rather lack of theme, that I’ve noted in other contexts as well. To wit, any particularly focused reaction to the serious economic crisis facing higher education.

To be sure, the SACS leader noted the economic challenge in introductory remarks — but that was the last I heard of the issue all day. In other respects, it was all systems go, and damn the cost.

SACS requires a significant undergraduate initiative, and while there is some language recognizing current fiscal issues, conversation continued to dwell on the need for major commitment and the strong likelihood that a review team might find the allocated budget inadequate to the task. No discussion surfaced of possibly streamlining some of the other fairly costly compliance requirements — such as sampling certain areas like faculty credentials rather than compelling case by case statements down the line.

This is not meant as a particular blast at SACS. I’ve had the same experience with our State Council for Higher Education and, though indirectly, with the new requirements federally imposed in the Higher Ed reauthorization act.

Nor of course do I expect outside agencies to bail us out. But a periodic session devoted to what agencies might do to reduce some of the externally imposed expense categories would at least be psychologically healing. While individual institutions work on the many other responses to the crisis they must face on their own, it would be both cheering and practical to see bureaucratic momentum checked and reviewed among some of our mentors, who sincerely wish us to succeed but who haven’t internalized what we’re facing. Among other things, a realization that some of the extra costs being imposed will perforce show up in tuition rates would be a salutary check.