I have only slowly come to realise the crisis facing US universities. A tipping point was the release this week in movie theatres of the documentary The Ivory Tower. Seeing that people are willing to pay money to watch a negative documentary suggests there is a ground swell of public concern.
A few other things that showed me the extent of the problem are the following.
The article, Universities on the Defensive, by Hunter Rawlings a former President of Cornell, and currently the President of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of 60 of the leading North American universities.
The Seattle Times recently ran a front page story about the problems of mushrooming student debt and eight myths about why college costs so much.
My UQ economics colleague John Quiggin has a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing how inequities in the US system reflect the broader inequality in society.
The table below taken from another interesting article, Navigating Culture Shock in The Chronicle of Higher Education contrasts the relative resources of Stanford and nearby San Jose State University.
What does this have to do with Australia?
Recently, the government introduced major reforms of Australian universities, aimed at making them more like the US system. This seems to be based on two simplistic notions:
1. because the US has the best universities in the world if we copy some of the features of the US system [making it very expensive for students] then we are going to end up with some world class universities.
2. deregulation and "free markets" always produce better outcomes.