14 August 2011

Who Says Universities Aren't Conservative Places?

Universities do not embrace change. Sometimes they don't even embrace talking about change.  The Boulder Daily Camera has done a short news article on my recent proposal in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the State of Colorado eliminate in-state tuition for its flagship university(ies).  Reached by a reporter my university offered this official response:
Boulder campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard said that while the idea is interesting, CU officials aren't considering it. There are too many constraints -- such as a state law that requires CU's freshman class to be made up of 55 percent in-state students, averaged over a three-year period.

"If it were as easy to do as he posits in his piece, we probably would have done it years ago," Hilliard said.
Stymied by the law. Of course, it is precisely that legal requirement that I'd like to see changed, so invoking it as an obstacle to change is really to miss the point. And there is no shortage of discussions about changing Colorado law by university officials -- every year CU officials are complaining about Colorado laws that have led to a reduction in State support. I guess those laws are OK to discuss changing.

At the same time officials at CU and CSU are not shy about the funding incentives that motivate them to look to out-of-state students as cash cows:
CU, where the mix of students is 55 percent Colorado residents and 45 percent nonresidents, is also working to increase the number of international students, who pay nonresident tuition and fees that will total about $29,000 to $31,000 for the 2011-2012 school year, compared to about $8,000 to $12,000 for state residents.

[CU President Bruce] Benson says the added revenue could total about $80 million for the university, after expenses such as English as a Second Language classes. He predicts the students will come from England, where recent tuition increases led to riots, as well as Saudi Arabia, China and South America. Other schools are looking worldwide for higher-paying students. Colorado State University, where 80 percent of students are from Colorado, is building relationships with institutions in China.

"It certainly helps the bottom line when we have a few nonresident students," says Rick Miranda, CSU's provost and executive vice president. "Certainly the trend is to be more global no matter what sector you are playing in."

CSU undergraduate residents pay about $7,000 in tuition and fees, while nonresidents pay about $23,000. Miranda says CSU does some targeted recruiting in California, Texas, Chicago and Minnesota. "We are spurred on to be energetic about our recruiting when our revenue streams are in jeopardy," he says.
 Change is difficult at universities, who ever said that they are not conservative? ;-)  As the Camera article alludes, change is already coming to the in-state tuition model, and it won't be the most conservative campuses that secure the benefits of that change.