Public colleges around the nation are attempting to escape from state oversight . These higher education institutions want complete autonomy — a secession that can lead to higher tuition for many students across America, The Huffington Post reports.
“As we speak, three Oregon public universities are now in the process of breaking away from state jurisdiction. Officials from University of Oregon, Portland State University and Oregon State University have been campaigning for “more freedom to hire and fire presidents, issue revenue bonds, and raise tuition,” HuffPo adds.
This is becoming a trend as an increasing number of other public colleges are also pushing for independence. Or if autonomy is an overreach, university officials are at least asking for less state supervision “in return for less funding or for meeting certain performance targets,” HuffPo states.
Over the past couple of years, a few states — such as Texas, Virginia, and Florida — have succeeded in gaining more flexibility in raising tuition. Wisconsin, Louisiana, and California pushed for the same system, but to no avail.
The downsides to public universities achieving sovereignty from the state is evident: The higher education institutions, especially the popular ones, may ditch the goal of being affordable and accessible to prospective college students.
“My fear is that if public flagships become so focused on revenue and prestige, and so focused on autonomy, they will minimize their commitment to the public agenda. They should be leading the public agenda. If they privatize too much, they’re not going to be doing it for much longer,” Richard Novak told HuffPo, an ex-director of public-sector programs at the Association of Governing Boards.
The few public universities who do breakaway from the state do often end up resembling private universities. They pursue a more agressive for-profit model ” in which schools hike sticker prices significantly while offering big discounts to students schools are trying to attract,” HuffPo adds. And usually, the students they lure into their schools aren’t based on merit — it’s mostly based on high household income. For example, in 2005 The University of West Virginia severed a few ties with the state and a state audit report shows that the number of low-income students attending the college decreased.
“Some of these flagships would like to make decisions that benefit their own financial future and give them the ability to build posh dining halls or giant stadiums or create new nanotechnology centers,” said James Garland, former president of Miami University in Ohio.
At a time when officials should be focusing on higher quality education and improving their accessibility to scholars, it seems like a few public schools are gravitating towards a more stringent business model that can marginalize many around the country.