American higher education inefficient, university president tells audience

American public universities are suffering from a failed business plan that threatens to reduce them to refuges of last resort for higher education, the former president of Miami University of Ohio said Saturday.

“I believe the public university is the least efficient and least productive organization in America,” James Garland told Club 20 during its spring meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center.

State funding for public universities should be diverted into need-based scholarships for students, Garland said. Colleges and universities then would compete for those students, so public money would remain in the higher education system, but get to the universities and colleges by a different route, Garland said.

Trustees and regents also need to be chosen differently than by political appointment or, as in the case of the regents of the University of Colorado, by election, Garland said.

While public universities still offer fine educations, there are concerns that academic rigor is slipping and some courses are too doctrinal, Garland said.

It’s also difficult to remove professors who don’t do their job, he said, in a sly reference to the continuing battle by the University of Colorado to fire Ward Churchill.

Funding for the higher education system in Colorado, as with many others, gets what’s left of the budget after everything else has been funded, and that is unlikely to change, he said.

As a result, students bear greater costs through higher tuition, meaning the system is overextended and growing out of reach for middle and low-income students, he said.

“The key problem is that the cost of conducting business as usual can no longer be afforded by those who pay the bills,” Garland said.


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