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Can public schools survive in this political climate?

October 06, 2005

Higher education institutions are facing serious funding issues at both the state and federal level. Katherine Lyall, former president of the UW System (my alma mater – Go Badgers!), co-authored a new book about the privatization of the public university.  Read more here: http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/index.php?ntid=54036&ntpid=5

I hope this book creates a serious discussion within higher education. For too long we have just accepted the decreasing support allocated by Congress and state legislatures. Institutions deal with this pressure by fundraising, raising tuition, and enacting strict budgets to resolve the funding crisis.

However, these are all short-term solutions to a long-term problem. If public universities are going to remain strong in providing world-class research and learning opportunities, states and the federal government need to start making stronger commitments to invest in higher education.

Institutions need to become more aggressive in making their case to both the public and elected officials. The ivory tower mentality has allowed institutions to think that civic leaders should automatically understand the value that public higher education offers. However, because of such a mentality, public institutions of higher education have allowed both groups to take quality public education for granted.

Until institutions unite in order to aggressively take their case to the public, they will continue to face significant funding challenges at the state and federal level.

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