Money Problems? Look to Your Academic Portfolios.

Posted by William F. Massy on Jun 17, 2020 12:53:20 PM





What college or university doesn’t have money problems these days?  We’ve seen such problems before but this time they’re deeper and more acute.  In the “good old days,” such as the stagflation of the 1970s and the economic recessions of the 80s, 90s, and 2008, the solutions involved a grab-bag of common-sense actions based on relatively crude information. These include:  cutting fixed percentages of cost from administrative and support services, pressing upwards on class sizes and teaching loads, substituting adjunct for regular faculty wherever possible, and hacking away at small classes.  In today’s environment, however, the sufficiency of these actions seems doubtful because of the depth of the money problems and because the low-hanging fruit already has been depleted by years of belt-tightening.

Topics: Program Margin, Academic Programs, Curricular Efficiency, Programs Economics

How to Dislodge Course and Program Proliferation

Posted by William F. Massy on May 5, 2020 11:10:34 AM

Dislodging Events A Potential Curb on Course and Program Proliferation

Steve Probst’s recent blog on curricular efficiency reminded me how serious the course and Dense forestprogram proliferation problem has become for America’s colleges and universities. For example, my forthcoming book reports that:

“Many programs persist beyond what should have been their sell-by dates. In one dataset reported by Bob Zemsky, for example, a daunting 48 percent of programs turned out ten or fewer graduates per year and collectively accounted for only 7 percent of all degrees granted . Bob puts the matter succinctly: “We [colleges] give students what they want. Most colleges can’t afford to do so without understanding why they can’t.” This doesn’t mean all low-enrollment programs should go on trial, but campuses do need serious and well-informed conversations on the matter” (p. 6).

Topics: Curricular Efficiency, Programs Economics, Course Costs

Achieving Curricular Efficiency

Posted by Steve Probst on Apr 8, 2020 2:43:39 PM

What if reducing overhead costs and cutting too-small programs were not the only practical ways to control college costs?

If a department offers five electives to serve 75 students, then the average class size for these electives would be 15 students. If the department adds another elective, all six electives would be likely to have enough students to justify offering these classes under typical policies. shutterstock_648204952However, the department would have just added to teaching load – and costs and potentially staffing – without increasing the actual amount of teaching and learning being done.

Topics: Higher Education, Curricular Efficiency, Programs Economics