I always rant and complain about the University. I recently calculated a 50% increase in tuition for students in the last four years here at Ohio State University. That’s about 3 times the rate of inflation. Once you factor out education and health care, inflation in this country have been very low the last ten years or so. Now, many of the buildings on this campus are very beautiful, and I think football stadiums are cool, but does it help students be more educated, say, than the average student at Hillsdale? Quite frankly, no.
Now Wal-mart has it’s problems, to be sure. Cheap shabby disposable architecture occasionally built by illegal immigrants
. I also tend to avoid their pie products, as many of you well know. But now all my local grocery stores are open 24 hours, in order to compete with Wal-mart. Now all stores have lower prices to compete with Wal-mart. Suppliers must be on the ball. I heard a story once that Nabisco wanted to push a new product with some stupid marketing campaign and coupons, and the guys at Wal-mart said, essentially, “Why don’t you calculate how much all that will cost, and then lower your prices across the board by that amount.” They’ve even forced credit card companies to charge lower fees to retailers and passed the savings on shareholders AND customers.
That’s what I like about Wal-mart.
So what costs so much about college? Where are some areas that costs could be cut? Well, first of all, there’s textbooks. Every year colleges forces students to pay outrageous prices for textbooks. I don’t know what kind of kick-back colleges get from publishers, but I know that many textbook authors are university profs. and many of the royalties go to the universities. I also know that copyrights don’t last forever. Obvious question: do we need a 2005 edition of a college algebra textbook? In a couple of years, couldn’t I get a fifty year old math/physics/zoology/biology/chemistry/english/french/western civ textbook from Google print virtually free? This would free up half the textbooks easily. You could easily free up some cost by abolishing all “ridiculousness-studies” departments I won’t even name.
Now, the only problem is, what about cutting edge science, you know, computer science, biomedical stuff, nanotechnology. I can’t say about computer science, but most of the content of a textbook is at least five year old research, and if you are in a cutting edge field (genomics, etc) that’s too slow anyway. All a university really needs is a lot of journal access, rows of servers, and a syllabus.
For universities of the future I envision simple sturdy buildings with lots of journal access and lots of independent study with less formal instruction. Sports of any kind would be like intramural sports leagues. College athletic programs as they are now should be separate financial entities from the university in which players are paid or have the option of taking a scholarship. Athletic programs will pay a license fee to use the school name, but no tuition money, state tax money, or federal tax money should be used to pay for football stadiums, basketball gymnasiums, and the like. Students in the sciences will be required to work in real labs doing real science and be graded on their work/attendance, and finally, a thesis. All business majors will have to work some kind of summer internship somehow related to the intricacies of enterprise (actually I’m lost on this one…does anyone have any ideas?). And lastly, all liberal arts majors will be required to sit in coffee shops and convince each other of the validity of bullshit theories.