Creating the Tipping Point - Blog

Tuition freeze gripes the nation

February 04, 2007

In the last week, Governors from Wisconsin and Maryland have outlined plans to freeze tuition in their states.  And in Minnesota, Republican legislators introduced a bill to that would force institutions to lock-in tuition rates over the four-year period that the student attends the institution. 

Much of this legislation is a result of the outcry that elected officials heard during the last election. Increased political pressure from parents and students is the reason that many state legislatures and Governors will outline plans to freeze tuition this year.

The problem is that the proposed cure will be much worse than the disease.  State legislatures will likely force institutions to keep tuition low but will not address the real reason why tuition has gone up over the last five years – health care costs, energy costs, and declining state support of higher education.

This will put institutions in a bad position politically.  They will have to oppose these measures because they will negatively impact the quality of the higher education.  In the end, tuition freezes will ultimately mean cuts to services, programs and faculty salaries.

Higher education institutions must reach out to students and parents to alert them about what these proposals will actually mean for the quality of their education.  This type of outreach is a key strategy that government affairs offices should be pursing.  Some of the most effective government relation strategies happen outside your state capitol. Unfortunately, many institutions miss this opportunity and fail to engage students and parents about these types of issues. 

Has it come to this?

March 09, 2006

In Oregon, a member of the state's board of regents suggested that the state sell one of its institutions as a way to address rising costs and declining state support. The University system receives less money per student than it did ten years ago.

"I think we need to alert people we are at the wall," said Kirby Dyess, who is a retired Intel executive and who offered the idea.

You can read the full story here -

Now, I am all for innovative ideas. But has it really come to this?

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:

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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