This week is also another meeting of the UW System Board of Regents. Consistent with yesterday’s blog, here I am sharing some thoughts from one of my students who watched the February 9 meeting of that Board. This was the meeting at which members discussed rising costs, cost containment, and the potential for cutting enrollment throughout UW System.
“The debate following the panel of chancellors reflected the three corners of the Iron Triangle: access, funding, and quality. Surprisingly, most of the concerns seemed to revolve around issues of quality, and to some extent access, not around funding concerns…When pressed on the issue, [President Kevin] Reilly was forced to admit that he did not know when or if quality decline would result in reduced enrollment…
Chancellors Sorenson and Wachter noted students’ reluctance to leave universities for the workforce. While not using the same intense and accusatory rhetoric of a Jackson Toby, they did claim that students lack efficiency in pursuing their education. At this point [Vice-President] Mark Nook interjected to provide an anecdote about how his daughter … had managed to graduate in 4 years…This reflected a misguided assumption that his daughter’s experience is typical, rather than the reality that 3/4 of today’s college students face serious constraints and pressures that could impede their academic progress.
In one particularly poignant moment, Regent Jose Vasquez questioned how the System would provide for students of color and those with disabilities. He was the only member to directly address issues of access for underserved populations. He noted that these students cost more than what he called ‘ideal’ and ‘easy’ students, and wondered how they’d be impacted by cost-cutting measures. His remarks highlighted the the non-financial values of public higher education and provided a moment to undercut finance as the “privileged language of reality.” Sadly, none of the board members or chancellors responded to his concern.“