Posted by | October 24, 2010 21:36 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Texas is trying out some new and controversial policies to evaluate and improve higher education.

A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained.

I have deeply mixed feelings about this. (I am a tenured professor at a public university).  On the one hand I sympathize with my colleagues voicing reactions like this:

And they point out that the data do not take into account the many hours spent preparing lectures, advising students, serving on curriculum review committees or making other contributions to the college community.

On the other hand, we (public university employees) do work for the taxpayers and for the students and it is entirely reasonable for both constituencies to demand some accountability.  For too long, some academics have gotten away with ignoring their teaching and avoiding the dreary work of being part of a public organization, in favor of writing research papers that ten other people will read.

The recession is bringing these issues to a head.  States are cutting back their subsidies for public universities and the federal government is starting to give support to those voicing demands for accountability.  Pressure is building to teach more people, who are less qualified for college, more cheaply.  I just hope that what is good about our higher educational system can survive deserved attempts to fix what is wrong with it.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.