To provide some context for my previous post on study abroad, here are some observations taken from an article that appeared yesterday in the online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. There is a lot press out there these days on the adjustments that colleges and universities have had to make in the wake of the recession, but this one pays particular attention to the need for future change. The authors write:
It may also be a sign that the full effect of the economic fallout has yet to hit home on many campuses, a perception reflected in numerous interviews with anxious higher-education leaders and in the sobering findings of a new Chronicle survey. In the survey sent to chief finance officers at four-year colleges in September, 62 percent of the respondents said they did not think the worst of the financial pressures on their institutions had passed. Nearly two-thirds of them worry that 2010, 2011, or 2012 or later, will be even tougher.
“In some respects, people are doing what they should be doing in an economic downturn,” says Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers organization. They are aiming cuts at “soft spots” and protecting core academic programs and student aid. But as Mr. Lingenfelter and countless other observers of the sector note, even when the economy rebounds, the pressures on colleges will be greater and all the usual sources of support—states, donors, and students and their families—are likely to be less able to provide resources.
The challenge, says Mr. Lingenfelter, is for higher education’s leadership to recognize that aiming to get back to pre-crash levels of financing or educational effectiveness is not enough. “We come across to the public as totally insatiable and resistant to change,” he says. “We’ve got to improve productivity.”
For most college leaders, managing in this new era of uncertainty has meant hunkering down. But observers say the coming months and years could require far more openness to change.
The full text of the Chronicle article is available here. I will address the subject of institutional change in my next post, but from a different, specifically Middlebury perspective.