After decades of mismanaging costs and tuition pricing, university leaders have been forced by macroeconomic conditions to finally take action. These two articles on cost cutting (WSJ, 25 December 2013) and tuition pricing (NYT, 25 December 2013) outline the typical roads taken.
Sadly, when it comes to tuition pricing, university leaders rely on expensive consultants to figure out what to do, not realizing that a professor of retail marketing in the business school can provide the three available options in 15 seconds. Sadly, when it comes to cost cutting, university leaders do what everyone else does, including laying off the lowest paid staff – those who actually do real work.
The gap between what leaders know how to do, and what they should be doing remains wide, driven in part by a failure to do a little bit of research to find out if practical alternatives exist to the usual zero-sum cost-cutting routines.
Big-name consultants (Accenture, Bain, etc.) see higher ed as an untapped source of sales for their zero-sum solutions to university finance problems. University leaders, suddenly in need of quick fixes, are easy marks for the consultants.
Complacency is the mother of quick fixes, which pushes away the process, kaizen, that leads to the learning that generates non-zero-sum improvements.