The NYTimes commented on the current fiscal difficulties in several states and how it was driving public universities to appeal to their alumni base for donations (link here). I understand, firsthand, how dire the budget situation is for public institutions but pushing the burden of support from the state to graduates is not a permanent fix. I would argue that it is well past time for these schools to recognize that their business model needs serious repair.
For years, they have solved budgetary problems by raising tuition. This has been met with tuition caps and by increasing criticism as graduates are saddled with deep debt. How do schools expect to pass the burden from the state, and from current enrollees to alumni while operating at the same bloated budgets. I find it almost comical that universities are begging for handouts instead of finding a real solution. It is time for public institutions to take a hard look at their operations, including on the academic side, to set a viable strategy for the future.
On a related note, an article from the Detroit Free Press gives ideas on how the State of Michigan might reduce its operating deficit (link here). One item discussed is transitioning the University of Michigan to a privately funded school. The move would allow the state’s other universities to tap into UofM’s state aid, $325 million this year which is the highest total for any of Michigan’s state supported schools.
I believe that this is a long shot with minimal support but does show just how deep the budget crisis is for this particular state, although not limited to Michigan.