A survey by Inside Higher Education shows a fundamental difference in economic assumptions of governors and college presidents with those who run the academic affairs such as provosts. Some are hailing the end of the economic downswing in 2008 while those who run the academics do not feel that this downturn is over. The perspectives are interesting and offer some insight to the debates going on in higher education.
According to the survey only 5% feel strongly that the economic downturn is over at their institutions. Another 18% feel that for the most part it is over. A total of 21% strongly disagree and another 37% somewhat disagree. Only 26% of private nonprofit institutions agree that the recession for their schools is over. Public institutions were even more likely to believe the downturn will continue.
The provosts feel that concepts such as MOOCs are unlikely to produce meaningful change. There will also be greater accountability on higher education to match effectiveness with finance. They are unenthusiastic about proposed changes for measuring school effectiveness at a national level but are excited about competency based programs.
Programs like STEM, professional degrees, and online programs are likely to receive more investment. It appears that schools are trying to receive additional funds and allocating those funds to programs that are likely to draw and retain students. Faculty and administrators have a divide in the way they view higher education and the changes that are needed.
The study was based on 842 provosts and has a margin of error around 3%. You may want to read the report yourself as there is a greater amount of information it offers. You can find some dissonance of perspective based upon where one sits within the higher education economic chain. For example, college presidents view the situation much differently than provosts and faculty members.
The report is a mixed bag. Certainly there is an adjustment in the perceived value of some programs versus others. Who can argue with STEM? Online programs are becoming a more common way to augment costs and attract students. Even though MOOCs have limited value they should be seen as higher education experimentation and may lead to either new adaptations or beneficial for continual professional education where a defined degree is not needed. In any event, the cost is rising and this is going to eventually run into the brick wall of public financing. Perhaps this will be when changes occur at a quickening pace.