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Saving Alma Mater

A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

America’s public universities educate 80% of our nation’s college students. But in the wake of rising demands on state treasuries, changing demographics, growing income inequality, and legislative indifference, many of these institutions have fallen into decline. Tuition costs have skyrocketed, class sizes have gone up, the number of courses offered has gone down, and the overall quality of education has decreased significantly.

Here James C. Garland draws on more than thirty years of experience as a professor, administrator, and university president to argue that a new compact between state government and public universities is needed to make these schools more affordable and financially secure. Saving Alma Mater challenges a change-resistant culture in academia that places too low a premium on efficiency and productivity. Seeing a crisis of campus leadership, Garland takes state legislators to task for perpetuating the decay of their public university systems and calls for reforms in the way university presidents and governing boards are selected. He concludes that the era is long past when state appropriations can enable public universities to keep their fees low and affordable. Saving Alma Mater thus calls for the partial deregulation of public universities and a phase-out of their state appropriations. Garland’s plan would tie university revenues to their performance and exploit the competitive pressures of the academic marketplace to control costs, rein in tuition, and make schools more responsive to student needs.

A much-needed blueprint for reform based on Garland’s real-life successes as the head of Miami University of Ohio, Saving Alma Mater will be essential for anyone concerned with the costs and quality of higher education in America today.

Read an excerpt and see the author’s blog.

296 pages | 7 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies

Education: Education--Economics, Law, Politics, Education--General Studies, Higher Education


“James Garland’s book not only describes in detail his fascinating experiment in restructuring the financing of Miami University but furthermore provides a broader discussion of why the challenges facing higher education today demand similarly bold paradigm shifts in the financing of America’s public universities. This book should be an important resource for both those involved in the leadership and governance of higher education as well as those citizens interested in the rapidly changing nature of America’s colleges and universities.”

James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus, University of Michigan

"Garland (president, emeritus, Miami University of Ohio) asserts that a misguided business model for public universities—he was a teacher and administrator at Ohio State for many years—has led to increasing tuition and declining quality. Garland explains the damaging impact of an unpredictable and uncompetitive system of state appropriations and also shows that faculty values and the character of academic culture get in the way of cost-effective management and the identification of priorities. Most faculty are dedicated and hardworking, but campus attitudes have led to a defensiveness that wastes resources, resists change, and undermines the academic excellence that students and society overall need. While Garland’s recommended change in tuition policy may not work throughout the system, his clearly expressed and hardheaded analysis provide a valuable perspective for both the general reader and public officials."

Library Journal

"As the former president of a public university, Garland worries about whether the public university will continue to provide professors with a venue for instructing students from middle-class homes. In recent decades, he laments, Americans have witnessed the breakdown of the economic model that once made public universities almost universally affordable. Consequently, students must pay staggering tuition to attend institutions that cannot maintain their facilities, keep their best faculty, or satisfy their staff. Garland therefore draws from the corporate world to propose a bold new economic model: let state legislatures replace their direct aid to public universities with indirect aid via expanded aid to needy students. To meet the market pressures generated by this new economic model, universities—Garland believes—will become more efficient, more flexible, and more responsive to social needs. Certain to spark fierce resistance, this proposed reform will require firm leadership from state governors who understand what is at stake in changing a valuable but now dysfunctional institution."

Booklist (starred review)

"In Saving Alma Mater, Mr. Garland argues that government should end subsidies altogether and allow supply and demand to rule. . . . A useful primer on academic dysfunction."

Patricia Cohen | New York Times

Table of Contents




Part I: A Primer on Public Higher Education Economics

1          Where the Money Comes From

2          Market Forces in Higher Education

3          Why Public Universities Cannot Restrain Costs

4          The University Prime Directive

Part II: The Academic Culture of Freedom and Waste

5          The Faculty Are the University

6          The Cargo Cult College

7          The Blessing and Curse of Shared Governance

8          What Price Shared Governance?

Part III: Renegotiating the Public Compact

9          The Shape of Things to Come

10        Leadership Begins with the Trustees

11        The Role of Governing Boards in the New Era

12        Recruiting Presidential Leadership

13        Reforming the Academic Culture

14        A Proposal for Deregulation of Public Universities


Appendix A: The Miami University Tuition Plan

Appendix B: The Impact of Competition on Public University Tuition, Costs, and Revenue

Appendix C: Suggested Readings



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