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.


  1. .

    This has next to nothing to do with University policy. This is all about the politicians being able to say to the voter, "See, your tax dollars are keeping Johnny's or Janey's tuition payments low."

    Let me guess, the state of Colorado pays the University a ton of money, and in return the University charges Colorado residents lower tuition. The University probably does not want to upset the apple cart because the state's payments are greater than "lost" tuition.

    If CU wants to eliminate state support and become completely tuition supported it will have a much stronger case in dropping the 55% requirement.


  2. Where, Roger, do you find any "Conservative"
    traits in the 'higher' education bubble?

  3. Roger,
    You command my respect because you are the rare breed of an academic/environmental scientist that actually is respectful to conservative thought. That said, may I suggest that though your tag line here may seem catchy, it seems to reveal that you have not actually read very deeply about conservative intellectual tradition in America. It is a sloppy and lazy bit of rhetoric that you just used.

  4. -3-The Wallaces

    Geez, my headline writer is having a rough week ;-)

    Just a joke, don't get too worked up, thanks.

  5. Roger,

    Your only mistake was to capitalize the 'c'. Using 'conservative to mean stuck in the past and holding on to old values and old methods, universities in America are very definitely conservative. Support for dinosaurs like the New Deal policies of the 30s and Great Society programs of the 60s are still exceptionally strong. Opposition to new populist movements like the Tea Party is heated. Support for new populist initiatives like charter schools or educational vouchers is near zero.

    Scratch the surface of a university dinosaur (regardless of age) and the thinking will reflect standard establishment ideas going back to the New Left of 4 decades ago or the FDR and LBJ policies of 8 and 5 decades ago. Small 'c' conservatives indeed.

  6. Scratch the surface of a university dinosaur (regardless of age) and the thinking will reflect standard establishment ideas going back to the New Left of 4 decades ago

    What, even Bob Jones University?

    I find it amusing that big C Conservatism is often held to be good because it espouses traditional virtues and long held values. In the US people will even cite the founding fathers.

    Yet liberals whose ideals go back four decades are stuck in the past!

    I personally would say that those holding 2000 year old religious values and 200 year old gun laws are the ones "stuck in the past".

    Universities are conservative, small c, to a large extent because they are knife-edge places to work. People who have fought the way to places of safety regard any attempt to topple them with disdain.

    Really they need to be rethought from the ground up, so that people in the lower rungs are not given all the crap and people in the upper not allowed to shirk teaching. Good luck with that!