Reality Check

The Reality Check blog, from John V. Lombardi, follows the endlessly fascinating parade of criticism and defense of the higher education business.

August 20, 2010 - 12:15pm
 How will it all work out? The budget is a mess, the economy weak, the quality of high school graduates in decline. Tuition and fees are on the rise, for profit colleges under attack, and US News continues to issue rankings. We hear that the costs of big time college sports grow larger, that the rich schools stay rich and the poor schools get poorer. We see more faculty in adjunct status. Many of our friends want us to do more training and less higher education. National, state, and local government leaders want us to graduate everyone who enters.
November 17, 2009 - 4:00pm
I am having trouble signing on to the campaign to make our universities dependencies of the federal government. I want the money. I am confident that we could spend it a lot better than the bailed out banks and the rescued financial services industry.
August 3, 2009 - 10:00am
The serial crises that affect higher education in America carry with them an accompanying enthusiasm for big thinking. Big thinking involves the expansion of good ideas into major movements, transformations, inflection points, and other moments of significance. Big ideas serve many purposes. They offer hooks for conferences, papers, and symposia sponsored by associations and foundations, each seeking a position on the leading edge of revolutionary change.
May 8, 2009 - 6:32am
The unusually large reductions in state appropriations to higher education in many states and the impact of the current record setting economic decline on other sources of university funding has pushed institutional responses into high visibility. We usually interpret America’s never ending economic crisis in higher education as instances of unique phenomena, each one requiring new dramatic response. We react with surprise, alarm, and exceptional rhetoric to the cyclical downturns in public funding or private support. We dramatize the dire consequences that reduced funding will cause.
March 25, 2009 - 4:09pm
A theme in budget reduction processes in some states is an enthusiasm for cannibalizing some institutions in the hopes of keeping others from suffering the effects of a state revenue reduction. This is of course a highly political issue, not easily resolved by rational discussions because the number and type of public universities and community colleges in a state reflects the accumulation over a long time of decisions by elected political representatives.
January 8, 2009 - 2:35pm
Our fable begins with the recognition that everyone is in favor of change, that magic word for all of higher education. Few things in college and university life capture such universal admiration as the prospect of change. If we become tired of such an ordinary word, we can prefix it with other magical words with high value like transformational and accountable. We know that the good change for universities involves more money to do the things that we want to do. Bad change involves less money. We know we usually do not like change that makes us work harder.
October 19, 2008 - 6:17pm
In the endless Sisyphean task of explaining university finances to many audiences, we often encounter considerable skepticism about our permanent need for more money. No university worth its diplomas will argue that it has enough money to do its job. Not even the richest among us.
August 10, 2008 - 5:15am
Nothing is more central to the enterprise of intercollegiate athletics than the commitment to amateurism. Everyone, whether bitter critic of NCAA sports or ardent defender, acknowledges this requirement. College sports depends on the definition and defense of amateurism for its survival, but the tremendous popularity and financial requirements of the college sports enterprise threatens and has threatened this quality since the early 20th century.
July 14, 2008 - 4:30pm
Periodically, universities and their friends engage in a flurry of conversations about naming things on campus, usually triggered by a high profile naming that some find inappropriate, interesting, or otherwise noteworthy. Most of us have experience in these conversations, having engaged in them time-and-again, in different contexts over the years. We know we will touch on the ten standard naming rules: 1. Only name buildings for dead people, 2. Only use the names of admirable people, 3. Recognize substantial individual contributions,
July 2, 2008 - 2:03pm
The act of matching donor wishes to institutional needs through philanthropic gift agreements is something of an art. Donors usually have specific goals in mind for their gifts, and because colleges and universities have tremendous financial needs, the enthusiasm to consummate a donation can lead both parties to imagine that everyone has the same expectations. Unless the gift document is clear, however, we often find that the meaning of vague language and expectations in the gift agreement drifts over time.


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