Competition Through Cooperation In American Higher Education

"By the end of the 20th Century, a number of American colleges and universities - often in close geographical proximity - began to look for ways to cooperate," Brian C. Mitchell, director of the Edvance Foundation, writes in The Huffington Post's The Blog.

"Today, a number of these groups continue to survive. Additionally, some state higher education associations have developed robust member service programs and unified research policy shops. And colleges and universities have established new patterns of engagement based upon joint sponsorships, program development, administrative efficiencies, faculty development and general economies of scale. …

Competition is now highly stratified with college strategic and financial plans at many full of objectives designed to promote aspirational jumps to 'the next level.' At most traditional colleges, there is insufficient planning to offer efficient programming with verifiable assessment metrics at reasonable, sustainable pricing.

Moderating tuition cannot happen when debt load, fundraising, tuition discounting, antiquated management practices, and weak governance further debilitate the case for the realignment of money, programs and aspirations.

It's easy to think that an important ingredient to any solution would be to partner with other colleges and universities to hold costs down.

If only it were so easy. …

How we finance higher education is just not working. Indeed, unbridled competition without cooperation is damaging the case for higher education. Developing broad-based program, administrative, and assessment partnerships is at best a partial solution to strengthen and support higher education. But cooperating from a better defined and more commonly understood foundation in key areas is a step in the right direction.

It may be one of the few ways to make sure that there are more worthy winners than weakened losers as higher education continues to evolve."

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