The New Balancing Act In the Business of Higher Education

Mimi Lord, TIAA-CREF Institute

December 2005 |

Nearly 100 higher education leaders convened at TIAA-CREF’s New York headquarters November 3-4, 2005 to discuss institutions’ challenges in an environment of intense financial pressures. Declines in state appropriations for higher education have caused public institutions to raise tuitions at a faster rate than private institutions in recent years, raising concerns that lower-income families are becoming increasingly disadvantaged in their ability to send their children to college. A significant trend is occurring that favors merit-based grants to need-based grants, further diminishing access to low-income students. Many institutions find themselves trying to decide if they should become more exclusive, while limiting access; or whether they should focus on broad access, with possibly less admissions selectivity.

This report summarizes the conference, organized by the TIAA-CREF Institute, which provided a venue for campus leaders to air their greatest concerns and discuss ways of bringing about change. In addition to concerns of declining quality and student access, speakers and participants raised other concerns, including:

  • The United States’ waning position as the world’s leader in higher education as other countries achieve higher college participation rates and more degrees granted in science and engineering.
  • Dramatic increases in the percentage of Ph.D.s in the United States granted to temporary residents in this country.
  • Growing stratification between public and private institutions as higher-quality students and top faculty are drawn increasingly to private institutions.
  • Increasing commercialization of education as institutions seek market-based curricula and pricing for financial viability.
  • Fears of declining faculty loyalty and quality as increasing percentages of faculty positions are filled by part-time and non-tenure-track employees.

Speakers stressed the need to raise public awareness of both the value and the challenges of higher education, as strong public support is needed to influence legislators. In addition, they urged campus leaders to engage all stakeholders to develop a vision and mission, as well as successful strategies for effecting change and measuring the outcomes. The tasks ahead will be challenging and will require courage, they said, but are critical for the sake of America’s future.

Click to view the conference agenda(PDF).

Click to read chapters from the related TIAA-CREF Institute Conference Volume - the second in the series on higher education.

© 2014 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), New York, NY 10017