The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

Newsletter Signup

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox every week.

* indicates required

Leaders must stick up for higher education

In a time when higher education is being systematically attacked by the state government, the news that Margaret Spellings would be the next UNC system president was a great cause for concern.

Many items in Spellings’ background, from her involvement in for-profit education to her calls for “efficiency” when she headed the department of education, were deeply troubling.

Now, with just a few weeks to go before Spellings takes office, we are getting more unsettling news that indicates that the worst suspicions about Spellings will soon become reality.

At Spellings’ behest, the Boston Consulting Group, a prominent consulting firm, has been hired by an anonymous donor through the UNC Foundation to conduct a study of the UNC general administration, according to the News & Observer.

The firm will spend the next two months talking with leaders throughout the system and releasing a report which puts forth “a high-level plan to ensure efficiency and effectiveness” in general administration operations, according to the News & Observer.

With the exception of the part about the anonymous donor, a lot of this might sound reasonable. Efficiency and effectiveness are good things, aren’t they?

They do matter, but it is important to understand that language like that is closely tied to a corporate vision for higher education. The introduction of this firm into the mix shows that the new leader is likely to pursue a path on higher education that is narrowly focused on cutting costs and running colleges like any other private business.

The Boston Consulting Group’s own previous work on the subject of higher education shows exactly where they stand.

In a 2014 presentation released by the group titled “Five Trends to Watch in Higher Education,” they lay out some of the challenges facing higher education: declining state funding, the need for “greater return on investment” from degrees and gloablization.

For all this issues, the group approvingly identifies a host of market-based practices being used to make up for the problem, including shifts to online education and the use of “part-time teachers.”

In many cases, particularly the problem of public funding, the group is correct. The solution, however, is not to simply accept that this is the way things have to be.

Investment in education, the desire to make education available to as many people as possible, is a political choice. If we want to make higher education a priority, we can.

Of course, we should not necessarily expect a consulting firm to take that view, but we should expect that from the leaders in our system.

As the Spellings era dawns, it is important that anyone with any stake in the UNC system fight to regain a sense of college that is broader than just the bottom line.

At Appalachian State, we should be proud of some of the efforts university leaders have already made. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution last semester raising questions about Spellings’ background and the process by which she was chosen.

Throughout the semester, as we start to see what shape the system will take under new leadership, we should expect to see such bold stances from our administrators as well, particularly Chancellor Everts.

This is a critical moment for higher education in North Carolina, and going forward our leaders should be judged by the way they respond to these circumstances.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is the Opinion Editor.

Donate to The Appalachian
$1065
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

We hope you appreciate this article! Before you move on, our student staff wanted to ask if you would consider supporting The Appalachian's award-winning journalism. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary of The Appalachian in 2024!

We receive funding from the university, which helps us to compensate our students for the work they do for The Appalachian. However, the bulk of our operational expenses — from printing and website hosting to training and entering our work into competitions — is dependent upon advertising revenue and donations. We cannot exist without the financial and educational support of our fellow departments on campus, our local and regional businesses, and donations of money and time from alumni, parents, subscribers and friends.

Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest, both on campus and within the community. From anywhere in the world, readers can access our paywall-free journalism, through our website, through our email newsletter, and through our social media channels. Our supporters help to keep us editorially independent, user-friendly, and accessible to everyone.

If you can, please consider supporting us with a financial gift from $10. We appreciate your consideration and support of student journalism at Appalachian State University. If you prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, or if you would prefer to make a recurring monthly gift, please give to The Appalachian Student News Fund through the university here: https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1727/cg20/form.aspx?sid=1727&gid=2&pgid=392&cid=1011&dids=418.15&bledit=1&sort=1.

Donate to The Appalachian
$1065
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal