Neoconservatives Lie, About Everything, All the Time
Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini

Newspapers and Colleges

Kevin Carey:

What Colleges Should Learn From Newspapers' Decline - Newspapers are dying. Are universities next?... Both industries are in the business of creating and communicating information... are threatened by the way technology has made that easier than ever before.... [U]niversities have their own weak point, their own vulnerable cash cow: lower-division undergraduate education. The math is pretty simple: Multiply an institution's average net tuition (plus any state subsidies) by the number of students (say, 200) in a freshman lecture course.... I don't care what kind of confiscatory indirect-cost multiplier you care to add to that equation, the institution is making a lot of money — which is then used to pay for... expensive things that cost more than they bring in. As of today, there's no Craigslist busily destroying the financial foundations of the modern university. Teaching is a lot more complicated than advertising, and universities have the advantage of sitting behind government-backed barriers to competition, in the form of accreditation....

Some people will argue that the best traditional college courses are superior to any online offering, and they're often right. There is no substitute for a live teacher and student, meeting minds. But remember, that's far from the experience of the lower-division undergraduate.... All she's getting is a live version of what iTunes University offers.... She's also increasingly paying through the nose for the privilege.... Perhaps the higher-education fuse is 25 years long, perhaps 40. But it ends someday, in our lifetimes. There's still time for higher-education institutions to use technology to their advantage, to move to a more-sustainable cost structure, and to win customers with a combination of superior service and reasonable price. If they don't, then someday, sooner than we think, we're going to be reading about the demise of once-great universities — not in the newspaper, but in whatever comes next...

I am not sure.

Put it this way: The printed book should have killed the university. Once you have Gutenberg, the original rationale for the lecture course is gone--yet universities survived and flourished. We need to have a much stronger sense of why universities survived the coming of the printed book before we can convince ourselves that they will not survive the coming of the internet.

The shifting of lower-division undergraduate education to cheaper venues does, however, seem likely...