The Cost Of Success: Where Is University Leadership Taking Us?

By on October 19, 2012

How do you identify great leadership? It’s kind of an intuitive thing, right? You know it when you see it. When someone inspires you to action, fills you with conviction, makes you believe in working to achieve something meaningful and spurs you to follow him or her wholeheartedly; these are the things that make a great leader jump right out at you. It’s different from being a good manager; management skills are a bit more practical and easier to pin down. Let’s take a look at how leadership and management fit into the task of running an institution of higher education.

College building project

New Dorms or Affordable Tuition?

It is well known how incredibly fast college tuition rates are rising; but why is it happening? One reason is that schools are spending a lot of money on things that aren’t related to educating students; things like administrative costs and elaborate new construction projects on campus. This is an example of great management. Schools are remodeling and building because they can; they can continue to raise tuition in order to continue growing.

Less Teachers, More Administrators

One person who will tell you about these trends is Kevin Carey; Carey works at the New America Foundation and serves as director of the Education Policy Program. He believes colleges are often more interested in competing with one another for prestige than they are in education, pointing out that as college tuition is rising, teaching staffs are actually shrinking. Countrywide, the number of full time professors has shrunk while areas such as administration have grown.

Kevin Carey

Image source: Center for American Progress

Leadership Qualities

Students are taking on massive amounts of debt in order to pay for school because college tuition is rising at many times the rate of inflation. During this trial by fire for students and their families, colleges have shown a discouraging lack of leadership qualities. Capping spending on facilities and administration would better accommodate students by helping to stem the tide of rising tuition rates. Instead they are, like excellent businessmen, taking advantage of how in demand college education is and using every opportunity to maintain their own competitive edge. We can’t fault them for being good businessmen. Maybe, though, higher education could use a little more leadership and a little less management.

Students learn leadership

Image source: michaelcardus

Working With Debt

The silver lining here is that student debt has actually become so pervasive and problematic that ways have been developed to work within the current system to overcome the burdens of debt. In fact, there are even ways that student debt can be used as an asset. When you choose to take the bull by the horns when dealing with personal finance, you’ll find there is a world of fantastic options for how to optimize your debt. There are government programs like Income-Based Repayment as well as capable organizations eager to help students get their debt under control.

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