I’ve had the chance to experience a number of colleges. Every single one operated essentially in the same way that a business would. Yes, colleges are learning institutes. So is the most neglected and disenfranchised inner city elementary school. By nature, they have to be. Unfortunately, a great deal of focus has shifted from many of these institutions from education to the business element.
There is a certain level of business awareness that colleges and universities need to meet. Failure to do so would lead to a breakdown in the effectiveness of their mission to educate. In today’s campuses, most go above and beyond that level of awareness. Universities are being run for profit. This is where the corporate model can either nourish or suffocate the educational goals.
Some universities will fight for every last cent, and turn that income around to bring in world class teaching staff, a more diverse student body, new degree programs, and even the construction and renovation of critical campus structures. The goal is to grow and improve. The corporate mind in this aspect is a glorious notion and should be encouraged in our higher education system.
Of course, everything can be a double edged sword. The other half of the corporate influence can crush the expansion of a university. Money does things to people. While the money to hire an entirely new department to start a new degree may be there, it can quickly disappear through raises and overcompensating salaries to existing staff. Scholarship money can vanish in an instant at the creation of a Vice President position by the school’s upper level of management. The people on top enjoy all of the benefits of the university’s success, which may be short lived because of the lack of a return.
As with any system, there are routes for the so called little people to put in their two cents. Student Council, student driven organizations, and collective student voices can have a big impact on university policy. I recently witnessed the firing of over a half dozen “VP’s of (fill in the blank)” at my old university because of the outrage caused. Raising tuition to accommodate the salaries of eleven vice president positions was not a good move on the university’s part.
Hopefully if you’re looking for a university, you can find one that has the right mentality. The best will maintain a balance that encourages the overall growth and prestige of the university, attracts the best of the best for teaching, and pays its employees enough to keep them happy. When you don’t see these elements, you should be wary as to how the college has chosen to operate.