White Paper inspiration from the US?

A somewhat different approach to cost savings in the new fees regime

Not sure if this was a source of inspiration for the White Paper. It looks like something of a blue print for efficient management at the bargain basement end of the new private providers (but perhaps not for the New College of the Humanities). The model presented here from Professor Vance Fried and published by the American Enterprise Insititute for Public Policy Research has a number of what look like helpful pointers for the new private providers:

“Higher education insiders sometimes point to the increasing cost of auxiliary services like student housing and big-time athletics as a major cause of large tuition increases. This is a red herring,” notes Fried. “Football, good food, and hot tubs are not the reason for runaway college spending. Rather, the root cause is the high cost of performing the instructional, research, and public-service missions of the undergraduate university.”

To identify areas ripe for cost savings, Fried creates a provocative experiment: what would it cost to educate undergraduates at a hypothetical college built from scratch? Fried concludes that undergraduate colleges should consider five major cost-cutting strategies:

1. Eliminate or separately fund research and public service

2. Optimize class size

3. Eliminate or consolidate low-enrollment programs

4. Eliminate administrator bloat

5. Downsize extracurricular student activity programs

“Rather than focusing only on the big-ticket items that tend to dominate debates about college costs, Fried argues that the real levers for increasing efficiency include rethinking student-faculty ratios, eliminating under-enrolled programs, and trimming unnecessary administrative positions,” explains Andrew P. Kelly, AEI research fellow and editor of the Future of American Education Project. “His recommendations are a must-read as states look to rein in college costs.”

There is clearly a strong ideological undercurrent here. And the points about ‘administrator bloat’ and drastically reducing student activities appear particularly narrow-sighted and significantly at odds with the White Paper notion of putting students at the heart of things. So perhaps extremely cheap and not very cheerful is not the way forward after all.

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