An excellent, tongue-in-cheek essay about budget crises, managing cuts, faculty and finding alternative solutions was written by John Lombardi for the Inside Higher Ed blog on “Reality Check” (Jan 8 2009). His fictional ‘fable’ does a good job at describing the many competing groups and forces operating within a large academic community.
This has been a difficult year for academic institutions. Buffeted by declining endowment income, scarcer donations from alumni, budget reduction (or rescission) requests from administrators, decreasing state tax revenues and a bleak long-term investment outlook face off against increasing pressure on college enrollments, recruitment (and retention) of talented faculty, expanding class size or teaching loads.
University of Connecticut, like other large state-supported universities, is experiencing these types of market influences. Following is an excerpt from the weekly digital newspaper, UConn Advance about cost saving initiatives, written by Karen Grava:
“ The University implemented an across-the-board 3.5 percent assessment in the fall – including a rescission of 3 percent and a 0.5 percent reallocation – and achieved substantial savings by placing strict limits on out-of-state travel and implementing a freeze on hiring, except for the most critical positions. “
As an academic librarian working with groups of recent college graduates now enrolled in medical or dental school, as an employee of the university and as a parent of a high school senior, I’d say I hold a variety of differing views of the current economic and enrollment challenges that colleges and universities in the U.S. are experiencing.
One of the students I have known throughout four years of medical school, a former PBL student, recently told me about her meeting with the financial-aid counselor. She’ll be graduating in May with $190,000 in student loans (which represents a combination of undergraduate and medical school expenses). These loans turn out to be an “average amount” of U.S. medical or dental student debt, currently. The counselor worked out a ten-year repayment plan for her to think about. The monthly cost? $2,200. For a lot of folks, that figure is higher than the monthly mortgage payment on their home. That’s a scary way to begin a career. On the other hand, being an anesthesiologist pays well. Eventually.
For an undergraduate viewpoint, this recent article outlining undergraduate college demographics, written by Lisa Foderaro for the New York Times (Mar 1 2009), gets to the heart of the question. Melissa Korn on the Wall Street Journal writes about how “dream schools” may be affected for the 2009-2010 academic year (Mar 2 2009).
Finally, my other perspective is as parent of a senior in high school. Recently I spoke with several local high school guidance counselors about college admissions this year. Each counselor in this group described 2009 as “… a very weird year for college applicants“. Following are several of their direct quotes:
“ Seniors who I would have thought would be likely to be admitted to top-tier private schools in other years either aren’t getting in, or if they are accepted, offers of scholarship money or financial aid hasn’t met their expectations [in 2009].”
“ Most students this year have applied to top-tier state universities in addition to private colleges… the average list of ‘safety schools’ is longer this year. Several kids haven’t been accepted at any of the schools they’ve heard from, so far. There’s also a great deal of wait-listing.”
“ More than a few parents [of our seniors] have lost their jobs or been laid-off recently. Some whose parents can’t help them out financially simply won’t go to college next year or will sit out to work for one or two years. All in all – it’s been a very difficult year to predict who will go where.”
Photo credit/source: C. Smith – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009
I’m profoundly grateful to report that my kid was admitted to the college of his choice recently. What a relief it was the day that long-awaited letter showed up in the mailbox!
Now if the greater economy would please get going again…