Thursday, February 05, 2009

Plain Wrap™ University

In the cult film from 1984, Repo Man, the generic "Plain Wrap" brand of Ralph's supermarkets {southern California} was featured heavily.  In the late-70s and early-'80s, there was a push towards "no-frills" house brands with minimalist packaging and grocery retailers with minimalist decor {read: Costco, Food4Less}.

So, it appears in these dire economic times that private universities are doing the same.  The price tag for one in New Hampshire is $10,000 per year.
"So what does $10,000 - comparable to tuition and required fees at a state school - buy? A full load of prescribed introductory courses in English, math, psychology, and history, intimate classes of fewer than 10 students, and built-in office hours with professors, so students don't drop out."
The only amenities at the Salem satellite: computer labs, vending machines, and a lounge with a stack of magazines and a chess board."
I'm currently at a schizophrenic place that has retrofitted chicken coops and tract homes, along with multi-million dollar athletic facilities, at a pricetag of $27,600 for undergraduate and $535-715 per credit for graduate and adult completion degree programs.  It got me thinking about pricing and undergraduate education, not including room & board, so I did a quick set of searches:

  • Cal States {it may take you 7 years to graduate, but...} $2,772/plus $339 per unit if you're a non-California resident
  • Pomona College $35,525
  • Pepperdine-Seaver $36,650
  • Oxy $36,971
  • UCLA $7,554/$28,262 non-California residents.
  • USC $37,096

Other Universities:
  • York University-Toronto $16,072CAN for non-Canadians + $756 mandatory health insurance
  • University of Toronto-$19,404CAN for non-Canadians
  • McGill-Montréal $18,290CAN for non-Canadians
  • Stanford $36,030
  • Harvard $32,557
  • NYU-Stern $35,644
  • Columbia $35,516
  • Rutgers {State University of New Jersey} $9,546/$19,870 non-NJ Residents
I mention three Canadian schools since there was a LA Times article a few years back on how universities in Canada were getting good Californian students who wanted a good education but couldn't get into the jam-packed University of California system.  

All of the schools have a brand reputation, in terms of faculty, atmosphere, competitiveness, job placement, etc., but the question is after controlling for those, are students interested in the collegiate "experience" and how much are students and parents willing to spend on it?  The Ivys were notorious for lacklustre student facilities, but never had any trouble with enrollments.

I have no qualms about high tuition, if value is being provided.  I have an issue when there is a lack of transparency and oversight about how funds are spent, but more on governance issues in a later post.
I think there is a future for no-frills higher education.  I also think universities will have to think long and hard about the use of technology, curricula, and truly providing value for students in ways that are both relevant and salient.

On a tangent here, if the campus isn't "dry," will the beer be generic, as well {photo}.  How will it be sold?  I think the Japanese have the answers {below}, but the age verification issue may be a thorny one.  In Japan, you're on the honor system.

1 comment:

Japanese words said...

Great article. Universities are facing some difficult decisions right now about how to move forward. The name brand schools have less problem just because of their fame, but schools with less brand recognition are starting to compete in different ways, such as offering just the basics, etc. You might find this article interesting:

Vending machines have used the honor system for a long time in Japan. However, in the last year they have started to add id verifications requiring to a special card to protect minors.