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With all the talk about MOOCs – how more students can be taught by the best faculty, how they will increase access and reduce costs – someone has come up with an idea for how to save money in the administrative area. 

For the past few years, there have been a glut of articles lamenting the rise of college costs, many of them pointing to the rise of the administrative class in higher education as one of the main culprits.  There have been articles in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Washington Monthly.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to the article The Brilliant Plan That Could Save Colleges Millions.  A wonderful satire . . . that reads like “Revenge of the Faculty.” 

In the article, the author proposes MOOAs (massive open online administrations) and posits that “By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically.  Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education.”

He really seems to be making fun of the idea that a few MOOCs could be used to teach the world, turning the idea around, “pointing out” that perhaps just one unit could make administrative decisions for most other schools.   

His article mentions much of “sameness” of many decisions made by college administrators:

 “Asked if this ‘one size fits all’ administrative concept was realistic given the diversity of problems faced by thousands of schools, Ginsberg noted that a ‘best practices’ philosophy already leads administrators to blindly follow one another’s leads in such realms as planning, staffing, personnel issues, campus diversity, branding and, curriculum planning.”

... And pokes fun at what passes for strategic planning:

“Ginsberg pointed to the realm of strategic planning.  He said that thanks to the best practices concept, hundreds of schools currently use virtually identical strategic plans. Despite the similarities, however, these plans cost each school hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to develop.” 

... And how much of the money spent on branding initiatives leads to very similar outcomes:

“According to Ginsberg, another place where the MOOA concept is immediately relevant is “branding.”  Following contemporary business models, hundreds of schools pay consulting firms hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them improve their ‘brand’ identities.  The results of these expensive individual efforts often seem quite similar.  For example, after a major and costly rebranding effort, the University of Chicago School of Medicine declared that its brand would be ‘University of Chicago Medicine.’  After working with consultants, the Johns Hopkins Medical School decided that its brand would be ‘Johns Hopkins Medicine.’ And, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School was helped by its consultants to coin the brand, ‘Penn Medicine.’  A MOOA might have identified a brand that all medical schools would be happy to use, such as ‘[School’s Name] Medicine.’”

So, just as MOOCs may save money by reducing faculty costs, a MOOA could reduce administrative costs by eliminating unnecessary administrative units? Hmmmm. 

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