Saturday, September 26, 2009

More On Higher Ed Reform

The chancellor and vice chancellor at Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau and Frank Yeary, have an intriguing  proposal for higher ed reform in the Washington Post. Here is the meat of it.
Given the precarious condition of state finances, we propose that President Obama emulate President Lincoln by creating a 21st-century version of the Morrill Act.

Specifically, the federal government should create a hybrid model in which a limited number of our great public research and teaching universities receive basic operating support from the federal government and their respective state governments. Washington might initially choose a representative set of schools, perhaps based on their research achievements, their success in graduating students, commitment to public service and their record in having a student body that is broadly representative of society.

Washington would provide sufficient additional funding for operations and student support to ensure broad access and continued excellence at these universities. A portion of these resources would ensure that out-of-state and in-state students pay the same tuition and have access to the same financial aid packages. The combined federal-state funding must be sufficient for these universities to maintain their preeminence as well as charge moderate fees to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Philanthropy must continue to be an important resource. To ensure stability, the federal government should agree to match, at a rate of 2-to-1, and the state government at 1-to-1, private endowment funds raised by these public universities for 10 years. If such a public-private partnership raised private philanthropy of $150 million per year, the university would have $6 billion contributed toward a new endowment at the end of 10 years. The payout from this new federal-state endowment would provide operating and other support such as need-based scholarships and would essentially secure excellence and access for a generation.

As with any daring scheme, the devil is in the details. This proposal for a national federal-state university system may require new models of financial governance that include federal and state oversight. This proposal would require these universities to accept a more diverse geographic mix of students, with perhaps fewer students from their own state. Yet such problems are solvable, if there is a will. The great benefit to all states, particularly those that do not yet have internationally acclaimed public universities, would be the opportunity for residents to attend other flagship state universities without paying out-of-state fees.
As I wrote in my previous post, I'll soon have some thoughts here on what I think should be done with Higher Ed in Pennsylvania. But any Federal intervention in public higher ed along the line proposed by Birgeneau and Yeary which would require a new model of financial governance,  would also, almost certainly, require a reorganization of Pennsylvania's mishmash of state-related and state-own schools. So the reforms that I'm thinking about would likely dovetail nicely with this type Federal intervention.

More from me latter. 

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