If organization theory tells us anything, it’s that resource dependence matters. When, five years down the road, we get a Race to the Top rewarding colleges that meet completion and job placement goals at a given tuition cost, I know where I’ll be looking: at that point in 2002 where higher ed waved goodbye to the states and hello to the feds.
Given the close collaboration of our national government with the world’s biggest businesses, it seems unlikely that this development will bring about a rescue from privatization. Rather, the feds are likely to be a very effective instrument for implementing the values and priorities of the market.
Among other things, this means that finding ways to create educational environments that are genuinely intellectually independent, and genuinely countercultural, is just going to get harder. James Poulos has suggested that small, private, online courses may be the future of educational seriousness and genuine innovation. That’s an argument worth considering, and I hope eventually to do so here.