« President's Policing Task Force Report | Main | Relative Standing in the Arizona Elections Clause Argument »

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Financing Higher Education

Thanks to Howard and the Prawfsblawg community for hosting me this month! For some time, I have had an interest in (or possibly more accurately, an obsession with) the question of how we fund higher education--and especially the ethical dimensions of that funding issue.  I hope to explore some of those questions here this month.

Obviously, funding issues are very much front-and-center in the law school world these days--but many liberal arts colleges are facing even bigger challenges.  Today Sweet Briar College announced that it will be closing at the end of this academic year, though it still has an endowment of $94 million.  I thought the board chair's explanation of the decision to close raised an interesting point about the priorities of a nonprofit institution:

Paul G. Rice, board chair, said in an interview that he realized some would ask, "Why don't you keep going until the lights go out?"

But he said that doing so would be wrong. "We have moral and legal obligations to our students and faculties and to our staff and to our alumnae. If you take up this decision too late, you won't be able to meet those obligations," he said. "People will carve up what's left -- it will not be orderly, nor fair."

This is a courageous stand for the chair to take; there is a temptation for self-preservation even at the expense of the larger mission of the college. But even though I think that the board made the right decision, my heart goes out to the staff and faculty who will lose their jobs. 

Posted by Cassandra Burke Robertson on March 3, 2015 at 01:49 PM in Current Affairs, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


One big issue is the link between research and education. There's very little reason beyond status quo bias that they need to be joined at the hip and subject to extensive cross subsidies. Certainly not at the undergraduate level, and probably not at the graduate level excepting those programs designed to produce researchers (i.e. academic Ph'ds).

Give adjuncts significant raises, better job security, and better working conditions and you still have much cheaper educators per class hour than 2/1 research professors.

The other one is the ever multiplying number of non-teaching non-research staff, especially administrators of one sort or another, and the monuments they build to themselves. While these white elephant may be paid for by donors, keeping the lights on comes out of the operating budget.

Bringing cost down won't save completely nonviable institutions, but it will help many on the edge.

Posted by: brad | Mar 4, 2015 12:15:09 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.