College faculty, Domestic, Private education, Required, Students, University & College - Written by on Monday, October 17, 2011 15:00 - 0 Comments

Must Liberal Arts Colleges Take a Conservative Approach to Ed Tech & Reform?

by David W. Siu via Flickr under CreativeCommons

Expensive, private, liberal arts institutions are one of the pillars of the U.S. higher education system. But they are increasingly nervous about trends in the economy and in technology. Kevin Kiley of InsideHigherEd writes a very interesting piece, published in USA Today about these trends (“Elite liberal arts colleges question financial models”). He focuses on Smith College as one example, looking into their “Futures Initiative” as a case study in where the liberal arts colleges are going. 

Private colleges without large endowments or prestigious reputations have already been rushing to add preprofessional or online programs or find a new niche that can attract students. And public colleges and universities haven’t been able to avoid questions about how efficiently they’re using public money as state appropriations per student have declined. But elite liberal arts colleges such as Smith do not face the kind of immediate financial strain affecting other sectors. They have high student demand, large endowments, high rates of giving, and strong cash flows and credit ratings. But that relative security hasn’t stopped some presidents from wondering whether tuition is too high, whether they will still be able to attract and support diverse student bodies, and whether they are too dependent on “full-pay” students, an increasingly hot commodity as other sectors of higher education look to bolster their own revenues.

And some are doing more than wonder. The president of Middlebury College announced last year that the college would cap tuition increases at 1 percent more than the rate of inflation, as well as expand other revenue-generating enterprises. The vice chancellor (the equivalent of president at most institutions) at the University of the South announced in February that the university would cut tuition by 10 percent and shift focus from merit aid to need-based aid. In a column last month and in his convocation talk this semester, Bowdoin College‘s president questioned whether there was something the college could learn from Clay Christensen’s book The Innovative University, and whether it needs to enhance the role of technology in a liberal arts education.

Via InsiderHigherEd and USA Today


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