My talk on economics for university administrators

Thank you all for the advice; in my talk I promoted the following ideas:

1. Many mid-level schools do not yet apply rigorous quantitative analysis in reviewing their fundraising techniques; this should change.

2. Norms will shift toward a greater inequality of rewards for lower-level staff.  Yet any single administrator who tries to bulldoze through a business-like, highly-incentivized solution does so at his or her peril.  The shift of norms will take a long time.

3. Community colleges are in many cases turning out to be stronger competitors than are for-profits.

4. The higher education bubble has burst.  The expiration of stimulus funds in 2011 will be a crushing event for many public sector universities.

5. Faculty governance is essential for tenure and curriculum decisions.  But faculty governance for setting university priorities is a big mistake.

6. The value of face-to-face classroom time (discussed in Create Your Own Economy, by the way) will prove robust.  But the very best teachers of the future will take on an increasing role as editors, collage creators, and DJs.  A brilliant scientist who doesn't understand YouTube will be crippled as a teacher.  Adjuncts may lead the wave of innovation here.

7. The way to be fiscally responsible is to refuse luxury projects in good times.  If bad times have come it is already too late.

8. Current administrators are using stimulus funds to buy off the old interest groups, under the view that these are temporary bad times.  Relative to what will come, these are "good times," and much of that surplus ought to be put in reserve funds.  That is not happening.

9. Many mid-level schools underinvest in making incremental improvements to their strong, core departments, because nobody gets much credit for that.

10. Being a good university administrator requires the right mix of idealism and cynicism and that is hard to come by.


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