More revenue does not seem to be in the cards for colleges and universities, as states continue to impose tight budgets on public institutions, while a fear of high tuition and borrowing limits what private institutions can charge. That was the consensus of college and university leaders gathered here, who argued that as a result they will need to focus increasingly on controlling costs.
At a conference at the New School, a group of mostly private university administrators and researchers discussed what the next 20 to 30 years would hold for higher education, focusing in particular on how institutions would manage unstable revenue sources and the growing costs of educating students.
While much of the conference was conducted cordially, it wasn’t devoid of conflict. With the conference held in the same city as Occupy Wall Street and taking place just a few days after a controversial vote by the Board of Trustees of City University of New York to increase tuition, sentiments and protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement spilled over into the conference. Some of the actions disrupted the proceedings, such as when protesters interrupted CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein by coughing throughout his speech and "Human Microphoned" a speech about rising tuition costs. But they also challenged speakers on the growth of administrative positions at universities and asked panelists how they could reconcile rising tuition prices with institutional missions of access. And those sentiments helped steer some of what the panelists addressed.
"As we look ahead and look at the incredible increases in the costs of education, at all levels, but certainly at the higher education level, we brought it on ourselves," said Neil Grabois, dean of the New School’s Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. "We brought it on in the sense that we have changed the way colleges and universities are structured. We have shifted in fact from a notion of the social good that higher education provides to the private good. We are more and more educating for jobs."