"Americans continue to enjoy the most envied, most copied system of post-secondary education in the world." And yet, "American colleges and universities are openly troubled by a sense of diminished opportunities and lessened capabilities. Fundamental questions about quality, content, and cost of colleges and universities are rife, both within and without the academy."

Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#649 Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education

 
Folks:

The posting below is a review by David Hollowell of Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education, by William F. Massy. The review originally appeared in Planning for Higher Education 33(2): Copyright (c) 1998-2005 by Society for College and University Planning (www.scup.org). Reprinted with permission. Planning for Higher Education book reviews appear at: (www.scup.org/phe).

Regards,

Rick Reis
reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Academy

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HONORING THE TRUST: QUALITY AND COST CONTAINMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Reviewed by David Hollowell

Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education responds to the premise that "the public trust in colleges and universities has eroded significantly in recent years and will continue to do so unless considerable reforms are undertaken" (p. viii). In this book, William Massy states that "the pursuit of true excellence in education, and especially undergraduate education, represents higher education's key strategic agenda" (p. 338). Honoring the Trust makes the case for this agenda, suggests models for solving selective problems, and offers an action response. Intended readers range from academic leaders to concerned citizens who wish to understand and learn about these challenges facing higher education.

Massy is eminently qualified to write on this subject. He is currently the president of the Jackson Hole Higher Education Group and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He previously served in a number of administrative roles including as Stanford's vice president for business and finance. In 1987, Massy founded the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research where he currently directs the project on educational quality and productivity. He also was a member of the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, and he consults internationally. Massy has written many books and articles, individually and in collaboration with other higher education research leaders, in areas of cost containment and academic quality improvement.

The book is divided into two major parts. In the first Massy makes the case for change, and in the second he describes the methodology for evaluation and improvement. The first chapter begins with a quote from the Knight Higher Education Collaborative:

"Americans continue to enjoy the most envied, most copied system of post-secondary education in the world." And yet, "American colleges and universities are openly troubled by a sense of diminished opportunities and lessened capabilities. Fundamental questions about quality, content, and cost of colleges and universities are rife, both within and without the academy" (p. 3).

Massy assumes that universities and colleges can be a great deal better than they are without massive infusion of funds. He states:

Close examination reveals the traditional university's core competency to lie in knowledge creation and dissemination, not in educating students at the highest quality possible given available resources. Professors do research and scholarship and make knowledge available to their students, but most spend little time on the process of teaching and learning. They don't focus sufficiently on student needs or the backgrounds and learning styles presented by would-be learners. They don't think deeply enough about the assessment of learning outcomes. They don't try regularly to substitute lower-cost for higher-cost processes while maintaining quality. A true core competency in education would include all of these things. (p. 6)

In making his case for change, Massy describes the classic university and how it has changed since World War II. In particular, the "massification" of higher education, the growth of research activity, and the ascendancy of market forces have significantly affected higher education. Massy considers various issues including the balance of research and teaching, cost escalation, and the concept of cross-subsidies as factors that have complicated the understanding of the higher education enterprise. He argues that full disclosure of these complex factors is essential in promoting understanding. He also discusses the interrelationship of research and teaching and the concept of the academic ratchet that has fostered academic specialization. Finally, Massy explores the current and potential impact of technology on both the learner and the faculty. He describes how technology can leverage traditional means of teaching and learning while noting that new incentives and rewards are n! ecessary to motivate faculty to invest the time to utilize technology in productive ways.

The last six chapters focus on improving practice. Massy discusses the academy's difficulty in quantifying quality measures from within while those outside the academy are clamoring for better measures of quality and for accountability. He goes on to describe the quality process for higher education based on a series of core quality principles. These principles include the following:

* Define education quality in terms of student outcomes
* Focus on the process of teaching, learning, and student assessment
* Strive for coherence in curricula, educational processes, and assessment
* Work collaboratively to achieve mutual involvement and support
* Base decisions on facts wherever possible
* Identify and learn from best practice
* Make continuous academic improvement a top priority (p. 167)

Academic units that regularly apply these principles are said to demonstrate a "culture of quality," and examples are presented to show how these principles are applied.

The eighth chapter focuses on one of the most controversial issues in higher education today: quality oversight. Government agencies, parents, donors, and others want to know that resources are being wisely utilized and that students are receiving a quality education. The basic fear is that if the academy does not develop understandable measures of quality and a regular process for academic quality improvement, then those outside that academy will mandate measures of their own. Massy describes an education quality process audit that is aimed at evaluating an institution's educational quality process rather than quality itself; in other words, to evaluate the process that is in place to measure and improve quality within the institution.

The book also considers the issue of balancing cost and quality and the concepts of quality/activity-based cost analysis, course level costing, and performance-based resource allocation. These are tools that can be used to understand the cost of various activities and how resources might be reallocated without compromising quality. The concept of performance funding now employed by a number of states is also discussed.

Finally, Massy describes an action agenda for higher education. He provides a road map, based on seven steps, for academic leaders who wish to improve the core academic competency of the department, college, or institution. These steps are:

* Build awareness and commitment.
* Commission pilot projects.
* Create venues for ongoing discussion and development.
* Organize skill development and consultation services.
* Broaden the rewards, recognition, and incentives environment.
* Adopt performance-based resource allocation.
* Develop an internal oversight and review capacity. (p. 315)

Following these steps coupled with an ongoing evaluation process can lead to the kind of educational quality improvement envisioned by the author.

Honoring the Trust is an invaluable resource for those who are considering the difficult task of implementing plans for academic quality improvement and assessment.

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