Texas A&M University is the latest in a long line of institutions trying to account for the “actual” value of a professor’s work. The past few years have seen a significant rise in this sort of formulation, even as academe has seen a decline in some forms of public support.
As an administrator, I see the value in trying to figure out the “actual” costs related to particular programs. I have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that my academic programs operate efficiently so that they may be sustained. Indeed, some programs that might be termed “inefficient” by some critics are essential to a well-rounded set of offerings at a university, and they are worth the “cost” of their existence.
I also see, however, the immediate dangers of the overcommodification of academe that can arise from a bean counter’s approach to such formulas. The danger of the former is that institutions can become bloated, unable to sustain their operations in the real world of budgets. The danger of the latter is that institutions will succumb to the temptation of becoming degree factories that omit rigorous, nuanced education (or at least some vestigial form of it).
How can we strike a necessary balance between being fiscally responsible and utterly ruthless in assessing genuine educational value?