Posted by: crudbasher | April 4, 2012

A Tale Of Two Universities

Some university professors go to work in buildings that are hundreds of years old. Those buildings have seen thousands and thousands of students pass through their halls who have gone on to do great things. A professor can take pride in carrying on the tradition of elite education. However, if you don’t have a Personal Learning Network it might be hard to see the signs of change all around us.

Costs for a university degree (I won’t say education) are increasing at a rate much faster than inflation and have been doing so for decades. In fact the cost of that degree can actually rival the cost of purchasing a house. Where the heck is the money going?

Is it going to professor salaries? According to this graph, no. (source)

Faculty Salary, vs Tuition vs Inflation

So where is all that tuition money going? Let’s look at the University of California at San Diego. (source)

“The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time ‘vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.’ This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.”

This is empire building. If you give them more money, they will spend it. There is no upper limit on spending because they think it will make them more competitive with other schools. It’s a spending arms race. All of these positions tend to be permanent of course. Schools will cut programs and teachers first.

Keep in mind that all of this extra spending doesn’t provide a better education. So if you just wanted to focus on learning, what would your school look like? Let’s look at the Minerva Project. (source)

 “The new university is called The Minerva Project, and according to CEO Ben Nelson, it recognizes all the free educational resources that are available online. In fact, says Nelson, the university won’t ask students to pay tuition for anything that you can learn elsewhere. “You’ll never find a foreign language class. You’ll never find an introductory class” at the university, he told me in a phone interview today. What you will find is an academically rigorous liberal arts education, more akin to graduate school perhaps or to, according to Nelson, a bygone era when a university education meant you were required to take a bunch of core classes and where you gained critical thinking skills — and the social certitude, perhaps — to be able to speak smartly or argue intelligently on any topic.”

They are focusing on the teaching and stripping all the other trappings (and diversity administrators) away. I have been saying for a few years now that the principle of Disaggregation will be coming to universities. A school is really just a way of bringing together teacher and student (even if online only). Everything else can be removed and the learning can still happen.

The biggest difference then between the Minerva Project and the University system in California, is the cost structure is hugely different. The schools with lots of expensive infrastructure and admins will become backed into a corner soon and will become vulnerable to disruptive, small schools that focus on learning. This cost difference is a big cloud in the oncoming Stormfront.



  1. I’ve personally seen a Distance Learning department practically take over a college — all without the traditional administrators even realizing what was happening. I like the distinction between a degree and an education, and you’re right: this will all be changed through disruption.

    • That is the nature of disruptive innovation. I happens quietly on the edges.

  2. Your blog is right on target.

  3. […] has been getting much more expensive. Relative to the consumer price index, higher ed tuition has been rising much faster. This video is for a new book called The Higher Education Bubble. It lays out this problem in the […]

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