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A Series of Modest Steps to Save Christian Higher Education

A Series of Modest Steps to Save Christian Higher Education July 25, 2017

 

1280px-Meister_von_San_Apollinare_Nuovo_in_Ravenna_002_opt1280px-Meister_von_San_Apollinare_Nuovo_in_Ravenna_002_optCollege is expensive and yet a diploma is still necessary for many jobs. Even if college was not needed for work, a real liberal arts education is liberating and outstanding training for citizen leaders for our Republic. How can we drive the debt out of education and get high quality education to everyone?

We have too many smaller college leaders stuck in a 1950’s model of what higher education should be (the campus/athletic complex) who then try to pay for it with second-rate 1990’s online education. Instead, we should embrace small, urban, regional liberal arts education that charges what people can pay and gives them a first-rate honors quality liberal arts credential. Those wishing a specialized degree leading to a job can continue education at the fine state and large private schools.

Let’s educate the clear majority of college graduates who don’t get jobs in their major, but would benefit from one-on-one tutorials like those offered at Oxford University for the children of the elites. We have a chance to use a combination of cooperation, technology which obliterates distance, and individualized education to get rid of debt and administrative bloat.

What should we do? Who can be sure! Here are a few ideas that seem to be working for The College program at The Saint Constantine School.

Step 1: Get rid of as many people who do not teach as possible and double down on full-time professors.

The largest office building on campus should never be administrative. A good friend started work at a first-tier law school with one dean and a few administrators. By the time he retired, there were multiple deans and more administrators than he could count. The quality had not improved nor the national standing of the school.

We can outsource much work such as accounting and other services. The idea of dorm life should be replaced with authentic life in a real community. Schools need to get out of any business (food services, housing) that are not academic and let the free market in their cities meet those needs.

Meanwhile, the school can end the “full-time/part-time” exploitation of the adjunct professor. We do need more pastors, business leaders, and community members teaching wisdom part-time, but the core education should be done by those paid decent, living wages to mentor students. The part-time professor should be an honor given to people that bring special wisdom to the classroom, not teachers exploited by administrators.

Cut administrators. Hire professors.

Step 2: Get rid of semi-professional NCAA athletics and any other programs unrelated to academic advancement.

When I am told by a person in college finance that a sport “raped the academic programs,” you know that things have gone too far. College sport needs to return to part-time amateurs playing for fun at our small schools. Bigger programs with storied traditions that can afford to maintain them (one thinks of Rice and Notre Dame) should keep programs, but smaller schools should stay out of the game. Let’s support our regional powers!

As for any other programs that amount to selling the campus like a resort for students, they should go as well. Let’s not force the next generation to ruin their middle age to pay for fun and games (rock walls! Ski lifts! Saunas!) that the free market provides in any case.

My own city of Houston has scores of entertainment options for students. Let’s help students learn to use those options instead of borrowing money to pay for spiffs many will never use.

Step 3: Get out of the “tuition discount” game and stop financial aid madness. Don’t take loans.

Too often parents come and are excited about the fifty-percent “scholarship” their child “won” at a school. They don’t know this is what the average student at the school gets. They have just had the normal discount repackaged for the family based on what the school can pay. God help the wealthier family that saved, because the discount for them will be less. They might get some real scholarships, schools still have them, but there will be a limit.

Of course, the school may have a few free rides to tempt students to apply. A few will win, others will get a tuition discount (the same they might have gotten anyway) as “runner up.” It is close to a fraud . . . the few winners are the loss leaders for the rest of us.

Step 4: Pay professors more than people who do not teach, if any such folk exist after step one.

Let’s make sure that anyone who isn’t teaching makes less than those who are. It’s time for coaches to makes professor wages and for the best teachers to make the best wages the school can afford.

This is where “on-line” can help. Stay out of the massive on-line fraud that churns through students to make money for the onsite campus. Instead, use the power of online to allow small classes with teachers who may not be in town. When a professor in Oxford can teach a few students in Houston, that is progress with technology. When a gang of graders in cubicles churn through students in educational sweatshops, that might be many things, but it is not education.

Step 5: Develop partnerships with bigger schools and do not duplicate effort.

Our own college program is a partnership with The King’s College, a uniquely well led and innovative institution. We also are near Rice University, perhaps the best school in Texas. We can use the resources of Rice such as the world class library and specialize in areas (such as Arab language) that fit our mission. There is no reason to create a second-rate anything when Rice has a first rate something down the street! We can even root for Rice athletics, though a few of us are partial to Texas, A&M, or UH. Great!

The future is bright for small, nimble Christian programs that change the world by lowering costs. Education is about people, teachers and students, and not about programs. We know this as Christians and so now is our time to lead.

 

 


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