By John Hinshaw
Professors are often told that higher education should be run more like a business.
You might think that I, as the President of the Pennsylvania AAUP, would disagree. But you’d be wrong. Look, even the AAUP is aware that higher ed has to change, and what could be better or more efficient than the business model? Yes, higher ed should be run like a corporation, and I’ve decided that that our business model should be the airlines.
In the last thirty years, the magic of the marketplace has transformed air travel from a pleasant, timely experience into one that is harried, unpredictable, and generally unpleasant. It’s also unprofitable, but I’m sure that’s not the airlines fault. I’m sure that in just a few short years, we can do the same for higher education.
I am going to start on the first day of class. Many professors know the keen attention that students pay to their syllabus: will this be on the test? Imagine how much more attentive students will be when the syllabus is only available for a small additional charge. It will help get them used to paying for legroom later, when they are out in the real world. No doubt there may be some confusion. Perhaps someone wants to drop the class. Of course I’ll sign the form. But since you are changing your itinerary, you have to pay a reasonable handling fee for the paperwork…
Perhaps I’ve picked the wrong industry. Perhaps it is health care that should be our model. After all, once upon a time, sick people just wandered into doctor’s offices, rather like confused students wandering into a professor’s. How much more efficient it will be when consultants do to higher ed what managed care has done for health care? Rather than the inefficient way we’ve operated in the past, letting students talk to us at the end of class, in the hallways, or in our offices, we can simply wait in our offices while students start off by calling (or perhaps texting?) the college’s 1-800 number. Then students can enter their code, navigate the system (“Dial one for the humanities…”) and just a few brief moments later, talk to a real live person who’s always happy to refer them to someone else.
This new model is a win-win. Faculty can focus on what they do best: teaching. Students (or rather, our customers) can focus on what they do best: consuming. Administrators can focus on what do best, which will soon be trying to figure out how to spend all the cash on consultants.
Happy new year, faculty! This year, we’re finally getting the job done!
John Hinshaw is president of the Pennsylvania division of the AAUP.