The Revenue-to-Cost Spiral in Higher Education

The cost of higher education has been rising rapidly. This paper by Robert E. Martin explains why. The cause is the incentives inherent in the nature of higher education. Higher education is a nonprofit sector; profit and even clear ownership are missing. Martin compares higher education with the broader profit-seeking economy, where costs must be controlled if firms are to survive. He finds that higher education, due to its nonprofit nature and its focus on creating reputation, spends just about all the money it gets, avoiding cost control.

Academic Freedom

Today’s university is rife with competing claims about academic freedom. Although it is similar to the freedom of speech that all Americans enjoy, academic freedom has developed into a more specific guarantee for scholars and teachers. This new paper by Donald Downs, professor of political science, law, and journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains what is meant by the term and to whom it applies.

Griggs v. Duke Power

This paper by Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder raises a provocative question. Does the increase in college enrollment over the past 30 years partly reflect the changing pressures on employers based on a 1971 Supreme Court decision? And if so, could these pressures also explain the much-touted increase in earnings that comes from a college education?

O’Keefe and Vedder explore the impact of the Griggs v. Duke Power decision on today’s college enrollment. In Griggs, the plaintiffs argued that Duke Power’s reliance on two aptitude tests discriminated against minority groups. Subsequent cases and statutory law have changed the environment for employer testing. This may have changed the pressure to attend college.

The paper is jointly published by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Opening Up the Classroom

A new report from the Pope Center proposes a way to improve the transparency and accountability of colleges and universities. “Opening Up the Classroom: Greater Transparency through Better, More Accessible Course Information,“ by Jay Schalin, recommends that faculty be required to post their course syllabi—the descriptions that go beyond the sketchy catalog summaries—on the Internet, with access open to the public.

There are four reasons for posting such documents on the Web. These are: to aid students as they register for courses, to expose a professor’s deviation from normal expectations or acceptable academic standards, to aid in pedagogical research and information sharing, and to make comparisons between classes at different universities easier for the determination of transfer credits.

Legal Education in North Carolina

A new report from the Pope Center recommends ways to increase the availability of low-cost legal education in North Carolina. It discusses the state’s law schools in detail, using available data about student outcomes such as student debt load and salaries upon graduation.

“Legal Education in North Carolina,” by Andrew P. Morriss and William D. Henderson, reveals that North Carolina has a “substantial unmet demand for legal education.” Signs of this unmet demand are the fact that its law schools are more selective than most law schools in other states and the state has fewer private-sector lawyers per capita than any other state (758/1).

UNC Education Schools: Helping or Hindering Potential Teachers?

This paper from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy takes a critical look at what is being taught at University of North Carolina teacher education schools. It reveals the overemphasis on so-called “student-centered learning,” also known as “progressivism” and “constructivism.”

“UNC Education Schools: Helping or Hindering Potential Teachers?” by George K. Cunningham, a former professor in educational and counseling psychology at the University of Louisville, concludes that UNC’s education schools have major weaknesses when it comes to teaching teachers.

Student Activity Fees: Who Gets What and Who Decides?

Only a small percentage of student activity fees at University of North Carolina campuses are distributed by students to campus organizations, says a new study. The majority of student activity fees are allocated by university administrators for purposes ranging from repairs to a student center to an undergraduate teaching award.

At N.C. State, only $8.85 out of the $363.50 collected per student for activities is distributed by students. At UNC-Chapel Hill, $39 of the $291.30 students must pay each year is given to student government to disburse to student organizations. “Contrary to the general impression, students are almost entirely excluded from the process of disbursing the student activity fee,” says Jenna Ashley Robinson, author of the study, “Student Activity Fees: Who Gets What and Who Decides?”

To Be or Not To Be: Shakespeare in the English Department

Nearly 50 percent of North Carolina colleges and universities no longer require their English majors to take a course in the work of William Shakespeare, says a report from the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Shakespeare is widely considered the most important author in the English language.

The Pope Center’s report, “To Be or Not to Be: Shakespeare in the English Department,” is based on information from the Web sites of 49 four-year universities in North Carolina; when clarification was needed, university personnel were contacted. The report indicates, by specific school, which require Shakespeare for their English majors and which do not.

Editor’s note: We learned after publication that we made an error. Mount Olive College, a private school, was listed as not requiring Shakespeare for its English majors. That is wrong; it does require its English majors to take a course in Shakespeare.

With this correction, 18 of the 34 private colleges surveyed still require Shakespeare, and 16 do not. Thus, 47 percent of the private schools do not require Shakespeare for English majors.

As indicated in the report, seven of the 15 public four-year campuses (North Carolina School of the Arts was excluded), also 47 percent, do not require Shakespeare. Taken together, approximately 47 percent of all surveyed schools do not require Shakespeare.

From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker

Russell K. Nieli’s new essay tells the story of the increasing loss of purpose and focus suffered by American universities over the ages.

Nieli, a lecturer in Princeton University’s politics department, has authored an important study of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, written numerous articles on public policy topics and edited an anthology of writings on affirmative action. Nieli graduated summa cum laude from Duke University and received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1970. He previously authored a Pope Center research paper in March 2007, “The Decline and Revival of Liberal Learning at Duke: The Focus and Gerst Programs.”

Faculty Compensation in the University of North Carolina System: How UNC schools compare with their national peers

The study is published by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and written by Jon Sanders, a policy analyst and research editor with the John Locke Foundation.

The North Carolina General Assembly allocates funds for faculty compensation. For the 2007-2009 biennium, Erskine Bowles, UNC president, is seeking $87.8 million to boost faculty salaries. This paper will cast doubt on the need for this increase. It will provide empirical information useful for legislators, administrators, taxpayers, and others.