Thin Budgets in 30 Days

Source: Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed, Confessions of a Community College Dean, July 12, 2018

Can a college get better and smaller at the same time? ….The more common case involves sustained incremental cutting and watering-down. That takes the form of replacing full-time faculty with adjuncts, replacing administrators with contracted services, raising class caps, outsourcing campus functions, and the like.  As short-term measures, many of those make sense at first, and a few may make sense generally. But after the low-hanging fruit has been picked, the trends don’t stop. This approach assumes, whether consciously or not, that the hard times are temporary. That might make sense in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but it’s delusional in the face of long-term demographic decline. Over time, the decline tends to outpace the incremental cuts, and the college has to resort to layoffs. Those are a nightmare for all involved. Aside from the frustration and hand-wringing of the usual approach, there’s a lack of vision. The challenge for each budget year is to keep doing essentially the same thing, but with less. But with long-term demographic decline, doing essentially the same thing guarantees continuing to get disappointing results.  As a long-term survival strategy, it’s exactly wrong. ….