Since taking over at Purdue, Mitch Daniels has shown that real higher education reform is possible.

Richard Vedder writes at See Thru Edu.

University Presidents, 2.0

While almost all new presidents speak eloquently of change, Daniels (not a particularly charismatic speaker) has shown that action talks louder than words. In less than two years, he has done three particularly noteworthy things at Purdue: begun to reverse the decades-long tuition spiral; done important things to make useful information on colleges available to students, taxpayers, and donors; and importantly attacked non-instructional student costs that have been soaring almost as much as tuition fees, albeit getting far less attention.

The class graduating from Purdue in 2016 that entered in 2012 will be the first one in decades not facing a single tuition increase during its four years in college. Considering inflation, in real terms fees have modestly declined. Purdue in-state tuition fees as a percent of Indiana annual per capita income had risen from less 10 percent around 1955 to over 25 percent (higher than in depression era 1939) by the time Daniels became president –and he realized that further growth was unsustainable. Daniels, experienced at cutting costs, both as a business executive and as Indiana’s governor, questioned previously accepted spending practices. Most notably, he personally took a pay cut from what his predecessor made –but with performance bonuses provided if he reached or exceeded high expectations. He froze administrative salaries as well.

While colleges are in the knowledge business, they provide very little really fundamental knowledge about themselves – certainly there is no clearly defined “bottom line.” For example, two questions we have only vague answers to are: how do recent graduates feel about the quality of their collegiate experience –great, so-so, a rip-off? How are they doing financially a few years out –have they gotten a satisfying and/or well-paying job? To deal with that issue, Purdue has teamed up with the Gallup Organization to survey graduates, not only of Purdue but other schools as well, in order to provide good information to would-be consumers of their educational services. While I think the survey can be strengthened to make it more consumer-friendly, it is a worthy effort.

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University Presidents, 2.0 (See Thru Edu)