Breaking Away: Top Public Universities Push for ‘Autonomy’ From States

Source: Marian Wang, ProPublica, October 7, 2013

…Across the country, a small but growing number of public universities are making similar pushes, looking to cut deals with state lawmakers that scale back direct oversight, often in return for less funding or for meeting certain performance targets. Over the past few years, schools in Texas, Virginia and Florida have all gotten more flexibility to raise tuition. Other plans have recently been broached, though with less success, in Wisconsin, California and Louisiana.

The proposals vary in scope, but their proponents generally argue that more autonomy allows public universities to operate with less red tape and with greater freedom to raise revenue as state funding has fallen.

But many within higher education point to the potential downsides. They worry that these universities — often the better-known and wealthier public universities — could end up sidelining broader state goals such as access and affordability in pursuit of their own agendas, such as moving up in college rankings….