We have already reported that many state universities and community colleges are attempting to function with smaller education budgets by decreasing staff numbers, increasing class size and drastically reducing financial aid, if not eliminating it altogether.
Educational analysts are now saying that the institutions that react in such shortsighted ways will only reap disaster in the future. Educational institutions that cut professional teaching staff while at the same time increasing class size will see their graduation rate lower, their overall reputation tarnished, their enrollment declining. Colleges and universities which take drastic cost saving methods such as cutting tenure to newly hired professors, eliminating expensive science classes and cutting low enrollment foreign language classes are only eroding their quality now, which in turn will lower future enrollment and jeopardize the stability of new enrollments. The recession will end, and when it does, students will be looking for schools that maintained high quality through these difficult times.
Fortunately not all state run educational facilities have gone that route. Some colleges are viewing the recessionary reductions as an opportunity to permanently lower costs by reducing waste and modernizing courses. The plan is to use this recession as a kind of spur to make fundamental changes that will result in better training for as many students as possible.
There are many ways to reduce waste. One university saves money by reducing the number of support staff traveling with sports teams, rather than reduce sports offerings. Some colleges are replacing glossy media publications with less expensive formats, such as DVDs. Tuition bills are being delivered electronically, rather than the more expensive printed bill delivered by the postal service. Thermostats are being turned down in winter to reduce utility bills.
Some educational administrators are setting an example by taking pay cuts, reducing use of university cars, and passing up bonuses. Some university presidents are taking the same unpaid furlough days as the rest of their executive staff.
Others look to course modernization for savings. Some classes transfer well from a traditional lecture classroom to a learning lab environment, such as entry level mathematics courses. Rather than attend lectures and do homework on their own time, students attend lab and spend class time doing computerized learning programs. These students are scoring higher on standardized tests due to the tests being so similar to the lab coursework. These lab courses are about thirty percent cheaper than traditional lecture classes.
With a growing demand for college courses but a shrinking education budget, many think the only long range solution is to find a way to offer better classes at less cost. With that in mind, many schools are designing labs for entry level classes in many areas, including foreign language, English composition, chemistry, history and more. And they are looking at saving money on entry-level classes so the more expensive upper-level classes remain high in quality. It is hoped that will improve the current low rates of graduation. And that, in turn, will keep new students enrolling.