I said the other day that I have a growing sense that colleges are the next newspapers, destined for some very uncomfortable adjustments and now I have a new data point. Apparently Texas Gov. Rick Perry has sort of oddly decreed that Texas public universities must conjure up programs that grant students bachelor’s degrees that only cost $10,000. This doesn’t sound very promising to me, but neither does Sandy Baum’s rejoinder give me much confidence that incumbent universities will fend off disruptive change:
But it is both disingenuous and dangerous to pretend that students can be provided with opportunities to develop their cognitive, civic and social potentials to the extent both they and their communities require without a significant investment of time, energy — and money. College is not the only thing people struggle to pay for or question paying for. Why does The New York Times charge for news? Shouldn’t everyone have access to the best possible coverage of world events? How could it hurt The Times if more people read their expert coverage?
Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news game will have noted that lots of publications don’t charge for the news. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times all have paywalls but most publications are free to read online and the industry as a whole has been shaken by plummeting revenues, massive layoffs, and the launching of disruptive competitors — Politico, ThinkProgress, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, etc.
Higher education has, of course, changed during this period, but it hasn’t been transformed in any fundamental way and the question for today’s university administrators and professors is how viable that is. Drawing analogies to the newspaper industry does not point in the direction of a viable status quo.