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Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

New Report By Jane Wellman of Delta Project Critiques College Spending For Student Success

>Jan. 15
>More for Less
>Most college students are carrying a greater
>share of the cost of their education, even as
>institutions spend less on teaching them,
>according to a
>report released today.
>The report, published by the Delta Project
>Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and
>Accountability, gives a potentially troubling
>picture of spending and revenue trends in higher
>education. Spanning from 2002 to 2006, the
>report indicates that tuition hikes have
>resulted in little if any new spending on
>classroom instruction at public research universities.
>"The public's got it exactly right," said Jane
>Wellman, head of the Delta Project. "They are
>jacking up tuition, and they're not re-investing it in quality."
>There's plenty of blame to go around, however,
>for this predicament. With state support waning
>for public colleges, rising tuition dollars are
>merely being used to make up for lost revenue ­
>not for hiring more faculty or taking other
>steps that would arguably improve classroom
>instruction, the report asserts. On the other
>hand, the Delta Project suggests that colleges
>haven't made the hard choices required for
>adapting to lower subsidies, as evidenced by
>relatively small changes in spending levels.
>"The data tell us that the spending patterns are
>not changing, we're just shifting revenue
>sources," Wellman said. "So what this tells us
>is we're not dealing with our cost structures, we're just shifting revenues."
>There's not much evidence to suggest that
>students at public universities are getting more
>for paying more. Between 2002 and 2006, average
>tuition at public research universities
>increased by nearly 27 percent or $1,419, but
>the spending on each student only went up by 1
>percent, or $149. In calculating "education and
>related" spending ­ the dollars spent directly
>on students ­ the Delta Project included
>expenses on instruction and student services.
>Also included in that figure is the per-student
>share of administrative functions tied to
>academics, academic support and operations and maintenance.
>Tuition increases outpaced per-student spending
>even more dramatically at public master's institutions and community colleges.
>Private institutions, on the other hand, are
>charging students more and putting more money
>into instruction at the same time, according to
>the report. At private research institutions,
>for instance, tuition went up by $985, but
>per-student spending actually rose by $1,453.
>Whether that spending translated into a higher
>quality education, however, remains to be seen.
>"This [report] tells us how we spend our money,
>but it doesn't tell us about effectiveness," Wellman said.
>The report does note that community colleges,
>for instance, are able to spend less money per
>student on the path toward graduation. Wellman
>concedes, however, that there's no way to
>determine whether what's gained in savings isn't lost in quality.
>Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio
>University, applauded the report for shining a
>light on how universities do business. At the
>same time, Vedder lamented that no one has been
>able to demonstrate effectively whether spending
>increases are helping colleges to better educate students.
>"What they have not done [in the report],
>because it's almost impossible to do, is measure
>performance, measure outcomes," said Vedder,
>director of the Center for College Affordability
>and Productivity. "Are the students learning? We
>have very limited ­ almost no ­ measure of outcomes."
>So where is all the money going? At most types
>of institutions, an increasing share of
>"education and related" spending goes toward
>administrative support and student services,
>while instruction ­ including faculty salaries ­
>is falling as a percentage of those expenses.
>Administrative expenses made up the most
>significant share of "education and related"
>expenses at private bachelor's institutions,
>where 44.2 percent of the cost of educating
>students was devoted to administration in 2006, according to the report.
>Data Brings Sunshine
>The greatest value of the Delta Project's report
>may yet to be realized. Leaders of the project,
>which is funded by the Lumina Foundation for
>Education, plan to create a Web-based function
>that will allow users to look at the spending
>and revenue data of individual institutions.
>While the raw data is already public through the
>federal data clearinghouse for higher education,
>known as the Integrated Postsecondary Education
>Data System (IPEDS), the Delta Project hopes to
>create a function that adds context and meaning
>to the often dizzying IPEDS numbers.
>Charles Miller, who chaired the U.S. Secretary
>of Education's Commission on the Future of
>Higher Education, said he welcomes the greater
>sunshine that the Delta Project is bringing to postsecondary education.
>"Unless you have data that's in this kind of
>form, it's very hard to make decisions and
>policy judgments that are objective," he said.
>After reviewing the report, Miller said the
>Delta Project had made a data-driven case for
>reform, without having to use the sometimes
>tough language that's found in many such
>reports, including the one Miller's own commission presented.
>"It doesn't say 'Here are the failings of the
>system,' and a lot of the report is going to
>avoid doing that, but [Wellman] implies it," he said.
>In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Wellman
>noted that the lack of transparency in higher
>education is a problem in and of itself.
>Institutions are reluctant to engage in much
>introspection about costs, because it raises
>"uncomfortable questions," she said. At a time
>when state support and private giving are sure
>to keep declining, however, it would behoove
>college leaders to closely examine exactly where
>they're getting money and spending money, Wellman said.
>"We're robbing Peter to pay Paul," she said. "We
>better find out who Peter and Paul are.
>viewed online at


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