Bassis, M. (2010) Changing the equation Inside Higher Education, March 25

This article, by the President of a private college, Westminster College, in the USA, challenges the notion that reducing costs of teaching reduces quality.

Some interesting quotes will give you the flavour of the article:

For the vast majority of colleges and universities, public as well as private, the elephant in the room is the cost structure of our academic programs. We don’t talk about it because of the perception that cost is inextricably related to quality, and no one is ready to sacrifice that. When quality is defined by those things that require substantial resources, efforts to reduce costs are doomed to failure…..

But our nagging concern about affordability wouldn’t go away. We didn’t need fancy economic models to realize that our college, along with so many others, was quickly approaching a very steep cliff. If we continued to raise tuition as we had in the past, more and more prospective students, even those who had their hearts set on attending our institution, would find that they simply could not afford to do so. It became clear that, unless we found ways to reduce our costs, and moderate our annual tuition increases as well, there was no way to avoid the cliff…..

The notion of defining quality in terms of outputs rather than inputs, by the achievements of our graduates rather than the achievements of our entering class, had been a key element in the strategic plan my institution began developing in 2002…..

So we started searching the literature for instructional designs that require fewer resources and result in high levels of student learning. The ones we found shared certain characteristics. They were driven by clear learning goals and involved extensive assessment and feedback to students. They stressed active learning and took maximum advantage of technology. In each design, faculty spent less time lecturing and more time coaching, proactively asking and answering questions with groups of students. And faculty were assisted in their coaching role by teaching assistants or peer mentors. Finally, economies of scale helped to produce significant cost savings….

I pulled together a team from our school of business and told them that the goal was to develop an undergraduate degree completion program in business that produced more and better learning at half the cost of our traditional program

Want to know how it turned out? Then read the full article – but don’t expect too much on the saving costs.

For another article by Michael Bassis on the same topic, see Bassis, M. (2009) Reigning in college costs Businessweek, December 21



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here