A Speech to the CASE Annual Assembly, San Diego, July 12, 2004
I am delighted to be here with you today. It is wonderful to be in California, where I spent a great deal of my career. California has shaped much of my understanding and appreciation of roles and responsibilities in higher education. In the current budget climate, it’s hard all over but particularly challenging in California. It has never been more urgent to define our measures of success and to communicate our value -- and our values.
Two years ago, I moved from the University of California at Berkeley, where I had served in the administration for over a dozen years, to Smith College. The experience of working in such different institutions has given me an unusual perspective on American higher education. The contrasts are striking: West Coast and East Coast, a co-ed school and a women’s school, a research university and a liberal arts college, public and private. It’s from these vantage points that I make my remarks today.
Accountability has become a buzzword in higher education. A quick search of recent headlines in The Chronicle of Higher Education reveals how frequently the word appears: “New Commission Debates Accountability,” “Lawmakers Call for More Accountability from Accreditation System,” “Colorado’s Governor Demands Accountability Over Sex-Party Allegations,” “Accountability and Openness at Iowa Foundation,” “Liebermann Calls for More Accountability From Colleges,” “Guidelines Are Developed to Help Colleges Follow Provisions of Financial-Accountability Law.”
The word is used so often, and in so many different contexts, that it is worth reflecting on its meaning. To be accountable is to be answerable, responsible, but the word accountability conveys more than personal or institutional responsibility. It means, literally, the obligation to render an account, in other words, to present evidence that responsibilities have been fulfilled. The word carries the implication of liability, of being subject to some consequence if the appropriate account is not rendered. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the first usage of the term at the end of the eighteenth century; nineteenth-century usages often have a governmental context. John Stuart Mill, for example, writes of “pushing to its utmost extent the accountability of governments to the people.” There is an implicit contract in the concept of accountability, of responsibilities discharged to a larger or higher entity.
When people use the term accountability today, the context is often suspicious and accusatory. Political and corporate scandals always issue-in demands for accountability. The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” of May 24, 2004, provides an example that I could duplicate from the front page of most days’ newspapers. The subject of the column is the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. The column ends with a quotation from an editorial about Abu Ghraib in the Army Times, the weekly trade journal of the uniformed military: “’This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.’”
To read all the headlines about accountability in higher education, one might conclude that colleges and universities were failing to meet their responsibilities in major ways. Yet The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Americans’ confidence in higher education is extremely strong. For two years in a row, The Chronicle has conducted an extensive national poll of public opinion on higher education. They have found that the public’s trust in institutions of higher education ranks near the top among all kinds of institutions; in the most recent poll, nearly 93 percent of respondents agreed that higher education institutions are among the most valuable resources in the United States. Why then all these calls for accountability?
The answer lies, paradoxically, in the high value that the public attributes to higher education. Never before in history has a college education seemed more important to the prospect of economic well-being. The lifetime income differential attributed to college education has been rising. According to a Business-Higher Education Forum paper on accountability, a male college graduate’s first job in 1973 typically paid 33 percent more than that of a male high school graduate; today, the difference has grown to 81 percent. But the cost of college has grown significantly, too. When people see a good, a product, as at once critically important and expensive, they become concerned about who has access to it, how it is distributed, and why it costs what it does. Indeed, legislative calls for greater accountability from higher education focus principally on these three issues. The controversy about affirmative action in admissions is fundamentally a controversy about access; the congressional debate about accountability standards in higher education is fundamentally a controversy about cost. The value of higher education is not in dispute; rather, the increasing sense of its value is firing the debate.
We in higher education have in many ways misjudged the issue. Those within the academy urging greater responsiveness to governmental calls for accountability have focused on measuring learning outcomes. There is nothing wrong with this -- except that it misses the point. Learning outcomes are very much an issue in the debate about accountability in K-12 education, but they enter into debates about higher education through a somewhat misleading analogy with K-12 schooling. When members of the government or the media or the general public call for greater accountability from our colleges and universities, they are rarely complaining that students are not learning enough. At heart they are concerned about which students have access to learning, at what price, and whether -- and when -- they graduate. They want to know about students’ ultimate success in the job market, not how much they’ve learned about literature, astronomy, or anthropology.
Many members of the academy bristle at what they see as inappropriate interference with their work in these calls for accountability. After all, our universities and colleges are replete with levels and systems of measurement. We rate applicants for admission. We grade students’ performance in every course they take. We evaluate faculty members for tenure and promotion. We review books and articles for publication, grants for funding. We assess departments and programs. We accredit professional degree programs, colleges, and universities. We believe that we are scrupulously accountable to ourselves, and we are affronted by any claim that we are not adequate to this task.
But being accountable to ourselves is insufficient; it does not fulfill the contract that accountability implies. As the Business-Higher Education Forum observes, “For accountability to occur, evidence about performance must be defined in the context of institutional and social goals that reflect a public agenda.” Let me repeat that: “… institutional and social goals that reflect a public agenda.” Central to the public’s agenda -- the public’s trust -- is access and affordability; accountability in higher education is inseparable from those goals.
If accountability is our end, then the means to that end, I would argue, lies in an ethic of greater transparency. Transparency in our business practices and in our governance; transparency in our admission and aid policies and, most importantly, in our communications. This comes more easily to some of us, feels more threatening to others, but ultimately holds the key to a fundamental social trust -- and to American higher education’s long-term success.
In order to develop greater transparency, fuller and clearer communication, we must determine to whom we are accountable and what we are accountable for. These questions are complex ones because colleges and universities have multiple constituencies. In his book, The University: An Owner’s Manual, distinguished Harvard Dean Henry Rosovsky posits a useful concept of ownership. He argues that we should think of “my college,” or “my university,” not in the way we say “my car” or “my house,” but, in the larger sense, in which we imagine “my country.” Rosovsky distinguishes between principal owners and part-owners. The principal owners are the faculty, students, and administrators. They are internal to the institution. Although they sometimes use the language of accountability -- particularly the faculty in regard to the administration -- the conversation about accountability is not, for the most part, an internal one. Rather, calls for accountability come from external constituencies. We can think of these constituencies -- or in Rosovsky’s terminology, “part-owners” -- as a series of concentric circles.
First there are the external groups with responsibility for governance -- boards of trustees, governors, or regents. The question of accountability is a complex one for these groups, for they both effect and demand accountability of the institution in their trust. Public boards operate very differently from private boards in regard to this responsibility, but more on this later.
Widening the circle yet further, we have donors asking accountability for the use of their gifts and alumni invested in the value of their degrees and the distinctive character of their college experiences. There are parents. There are levels of government -- local, state and federal -- each with a different set of concerns. And finally, but not least, there is the general public, both as consumers and as concerned citizens, as well as the public’s voice, mirror, and watchdog, the news media.
Although it is tempting for institutions of higher education to draw a circle and claim that any individual or body standing outside of it has no right to demand accountability, it has become undeniably clear that we ignore our part-owners at our peril. Indeed the attention that all of us give to public relations shows that we recognize this fact. Henry Rosovsky observes that the right to know is deeply ingrained in our national tradition, particularly with regard to public figures and public entities. Colleges and universities, whether public or private, are viewed as public property; that view reflects the centrality of our institutions today. It carries with it the burden -- and the responsibility -- to be accountable.
My experiences at Berkeley, and now at Smith, have given me a vivid demonstration of how differently accountability operates in the public and private spheres. If we go back to the metaphor of concentric circles of part-owners, we see that private colleges are most concerned with their donors and their alumni. Except in the case of federal research contracts, or relationships with local municipalities, private colleges tend to engage government as members of a collective, through higher education associations that lobby the government about policy. In contrast, public colleges and universities operate in the context of an implicit -- and often explicit -- contract with the state and its citizens. While this contractual understanding drives discussion of accountability, the discussion is complicated by different understandings of institutional mission.
Let me give you an example. Upon moving to Smith, I was impressed to discover how much consensus there was among the college’s major constituencies about its mission. Alumnae, donors, parents, the board of trustees, faculty, students, staff -- all basically agree about the mission of the college, even while they sometimes disagree about specific actions and policies in regard to it. Public institutions do not enjoy the same consensus. If you ask faculty, students, staff, boards of regents, legislators, and the general public to define the institutional mission of the University of California or the University of Arizona or the University of Colorado, you will get strikingly different answers. In part, such differences result from the greater complexity of the institutions themselves, but in part they result from conflicting ideas about the institutions. Is their guiding purpose to provide affordable college education for all qualified students from the state? To expand educational access to disadvantaged populations? To develop top-ranked graduate programs? To provide the best possible environment for faculty research? To stimulate high-tech economic development in their area or state? To serve the public? All of the above?
The contrast between the governing boards of private and public institutions reflects the difference in their constituencies. Private boards often have many alumni among their members; they see their function as furthering the mission of the college. In the course of the search process for the presidency of Smith, I asked a member of the search committee how she saw the function of the board of trustees; she gave me an answer that was music to a candidate’s ears. The purpose of the board, she said was to help the president succeed. I may be wrong, but I do not think that the chair of the University of California Board of Regents would see his job in the same way. Public boards are located ambiguously between the institution of higher education for which they are responsible and the state in which they serve. It is often unclear whose interests they hold higher. Are they there to serve the institution, governing it so that it can achieve its full potential, or are they there to represent the state and its claims? A meeting of college and university leaders that I attended about a year ago concluded that one of the most serious problems confronting higher education was the poor quality of public boards. In part, this problem results from the methods states use to choose board members, methods that do not necessarily result in the selection of those best qualified to serve, but it also results, I believe, from lack of clarity about whose interests the board represents in its stewardship.
Public institutions are subject to much higher standards of disclosure than privates. Admission criteria, salaries, budget information, whether publics like it or not, are all subject to public disclosure. This may set me apart from many of my private-college colleagues, but I believe that this is healthy. Indeed, I believe that it is critical.
If our constituencies are multiple and complex, our obligations are equally so. First, of course, is our obligation to financial accountability or accountability in our use of resources. The highest responsibility of a governing board is fiduciary. Reflecting changes in accounting and auditing standards and practices in the corporate world, colleges and universities are moving to comply with provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. But that’s just the beginning, a baseline of trust. Our institutions are accountable for the use of resources in many other ways. We are accountable to granting authorities for compliance with the provisions of grants and contracts, whether grants come from the federal government, from foundations, or from corporations. We are accountable to the federal government for compliance with financial aid provisions. We are accountable to donors for the designated use of their gifts. Happily, this system of financial accountability for specific uses of granted funds works extremely well for the most part. When abuses occur, as in the case of misuse of funds from a federal research grant, or the failure of a college or university to apply a gift to the designated use, there is general agreement about the principles involved -- even when there is disagreement about specific circumstances and understandings.
A more interesting issue -- and one that is controversial within the academy -- concerns the boundaries that colleges and universities should impose upon conditions of gifts and grants. Two areas are particularly vexed: first, the relationship of colleges and universities to corporations and, second, our relationship to donors who seek to advance a political agenda through a gift. Two recent books -- Derek Bok’s Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education and David Kirp’s Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education -- raise serious questions about the increasing weight of commercial financial incentives in higher education. As colleges and universities, many of them increasingly strapped for funds, look in new places for resources, they must confront the question of the conditions under which resources are granted. Research funding from corporations shapes research agendas, leading to fears that objectivity -- a central and prized value in the academy -- might be compromised.
Some of you might recall a particularly interesting example of this problem at Berkeley. During the time that I served in the administration, the campus struggled with evaluating a particularly interesting and innovative gift for research from the Novartis Corporation. Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources reached an agreement with Novartis for $25 million in research support over a five-year period in return for Novartis having the first opportunity to patent a percentage of discoveries made in faculty labs. The percentage was determined by the proportion that Novartis funding represented of total college research funding; only faculty signing the contract participated. There were no strings attached to the money; this was not sponsored research. However, a committee, upon which a Novartis scientist sat, oversaw the allocation of the funds. To many in the College of Natural Resources, this contract seemed like the goose that laid the golden egg. They saw only benefit; the risk, they felt, was all with Novartis, which was gambling on the relevance and productivity of the research conducted by the faculty. There were no guarantees that anything would pan out. Many outside the college saw grave risk, a pressure upon research agendas to shift in directions rewarding to Novartis. The university resolved this debate in a typical manner -- by labeling the grant a pilot and by commissioning a study of it. In the end, Novartis did not renew the agreement, finding that it did not sufficiently reward its investment.
I tell this story because I think it is an interesting case study in accountability. Under what conditions does accepting an obligation to be accountable to a grantor undermine a higher standard of accountability? That higher standard is the objectivity and intellectual independence of the research enterprise. I do not believe that it was violated in the Novartis agreement, but I can readily imagine instances in which it could be. The issue often arises in regard to gifts. I am sure that many in this audience have worked with donors who wanted not only to give a chair to their institution but to name the holder of the chair as well. I imagine that a number of you have worked with governments or with advocacy organizations for particular national or ethnic groups who have wanted to define the perspective taken by a center or a program. A few years ago several colleges and universities failed to define conditions acceptable to them for gifts from the Turkish government, gifts designed to support Turkish studies. During negotiations for such a gift at Berkeley, there were difficult conversations not only with Turkish donors but with the Armenian community, members of which felt that accepting such a gift would violate their trust. Incidents like these raise the question of appropriate accountability.
When does incurring an obligation to a particular constituency violate a higher accountability? Most of us would agree on the answer to this question in the abstract -- we’d say, “when it compromises the academic integrity and independence of the institution.” But specific issues can be far more complex and vexed. Colleges and universities do a great deal of sponsored research for federal agencies and for corporations with specific objectives and commercial by-products; donors give many gifts for specific objectives and purposes. Ultimately, the best test of appropriate accountability lies in a return to institutional mission and purpose. As I often said at the University of California: when money walks in the door, it becomes public money, and we are accountable for it on those terms. Similarly, at private colleges and universities, all gifts become resources of the institution itself; their use must express our mission and purpose.
One of the greatest contrasts I have found in moving from a public to a private institution has been the greater openness of the discussion of budget and finance in public institutions. Because state universities and colleges receive public appropriations, budget information is not only subject to public scrutiny; it is almost always reported and commented upon in the press. It may be uncomfortable, but, in many ways, this transparency is beneficial to the institution. No one within the institution has trouble believing that budget problems are real or that trade-offs need careful consideration.
Public and legislative demands for accountability in higher education center importantly on issues of cost. The Business-Higher Education Forum’s analysis, to which I referred before, points out that “the rising cost of college has become one of the more potent galvanizing forces about accountability in higher education.” Although the McKeon Act -- a Congressional effort to legislate tuition at publics and privates -- did not succeed, it is undeniable that the fuel behind it, public concern over the cost and value of college, remains a significant force that we will ignore at our peril. While the current version of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act eliminates the sanctions in the original McKeon bill, it maintains all of the reporting requirements, including a particularly extensive set of requirements for schools exceeding a defined affordability index. We cannot respond convincingly to the concern reflected in legislation like this if we do not discuss cost issues more candidly among ourselves.
Colleges must have more forthright discussions about cost and pricing. And such discussions cannot simply defend the status quo. Instead, we must be willing to ask the hard question of whether we can do our business differently in fundamental ways. Are there cost standards on which we can agree? What services should we provide our students, and which might we eliminate? Can we achieve efficiencies through more extensive reliance on consortia? Can we share libraries? Services? Faculty and departments? Smith is part of a consortium of private colleges and a public university -- one of the oldest such consortia in the country -- in which many of these conversations are ongoing. Many would agree that their effect is not simply greater economy but enhanced quality.
The pressures to reduce costs in higher education will only increase over the next decade. Nationwide, enrollments are projected to grow by about 2.5 million students by the year 2015. Not only will the college population continue to grow; the need for financial aid will increase at an even higher rate. State governments, the federal government, and the general public will share an urgent concern with access, affordability, cost control, and productivity. As costs rise, our institutions will also find themselves under financial pressure from the increasing percentage that financial aid will compose of our operating budgets. Both to address our own financial pressures and to respond to external concern about the expense of college, we in colleges and universities must begin more candid and transparent discussions of cost and price. Otherwise we will lose public trust on this critical issue and run the risk of regulatory legislation that, while it might increase productivity, would likely do so at the expense of quality.
Before I leave the issue of financial accountability, I need to say a word about endowment management. Changes in investment opportunities -- the emergence of alternative investments like hedge funds and private equity -- have led a number of colleges and universities to question whether traditional ways of managing their investments are as productive as they might be. Seeking to increase returns, schools with larger endowments have developed their own investments offices, supplementing or supplanting the traditional work of investment committees of boards of trustees. The salaries and bonuses that such investment professionals command seem to some constituencies grossly disproportionate to college costs. A front-page story in the June 4, 2004, New York Times reported the anger of a Harvard alumnus at the money paid the five most highly compensated members of the Harvard Management Company, two of whom made more than $35 million last year. The alumnus in question, who had previously given $4 million to the university, complained, “The managers of the endowment took home enough money last year to send 4000 students to Harvard for a year.” At the time of this writing, he was trying to organize alums to withhold their donations, demanding -- you guessed it -- greater accountability. His use of the term is instructive for he is not simply asking Harvard to render an account, but to render an account that satisfies him that financial management compensation bears a just relationship to college tuition costs.
While the use of resources is perhaps the most important area in which the many constituencies of colleges and universities expect accountability, another increasingly important area of public scrutiny is the admission process. The reason is similar. Admission to college and university is a valuable good, seeming to offer a passport to professional employment, affinity networks, and economic security. Parents have an important investment in admissions; so do governments concerned with opportunity and with equity. The conflict about affirmative action in admissions is fundamentally a conflict about equity and access. In The Chronicle of Higher Education survey about public attitudes toward college that reflected so high a degree of confidence in higher education, respondents expressed dissatisfaction with what they perceived as excess in three areas -- athletics, legacy admissions, and college costs. Significantly, more respondents -- 75 percent -- disapproved of giving admission preference to sons and daughters of alumni than disapproved of giving preference to minority applicants -- 45 percent.
Admissions policies and procedures in public universities, particularly selective public universities, have been subject to detailed public scrutiny for more than a decade. Concern about affirmative action in admissions was the single most important factor motivating the development and passage of California’s Proposition 209 and was the subject, of course, of the two University of Michigan cases decided a year ago by the Supreme Court. The extraordinary effort that Michigan undertook to study the impact of its policies on all students and to defend their educational value didn’t simply influence the court’s decision; it raised appreciably the level of public discourse about admissions, bringing greater clarity and understanding to a vexed and important subject.
Colleges and universities can benefit a great deal from a public educated about admissions. Particularly in today’s overheated climate in which parents and their sons and daughters often experience excessive anxiety about getting into a small group of highly selective schools, colleges and universities need to talk more openly about their admissions policies and practices or they will face increasing distrust. The concern that the Chronicle’s survey reflects about legacy admissions and the concern many have voiced about admissions preferences for athletes are symptoms of a growing disquiet. Public trust in the basic fairness of admissions is critical for the higher education community. Greater openness will help us achieve it.
At the same time, we also need to turn down the competitive volume. The president of a major liberal arts college was quoted about a year ago in Time magazine, boasting that only four schools beat his in “head to head,” competition for students, that they were close to an even split with a few others, and that “everyone else was in the rear-view mirror.” Attitudes like these are not helpful. Although we all want our students to feel that they are uniquely fortunate in their admission to our college or university, we will be better served as a higher education community if students and their parents understand that, in fact, many good choices exist for each student. Colleges and universities are more similar than they are different. If we are honest with ourselves, we must concede that size and location differentiate us more strongly than unique programmatic advantage. What students get from a college education depends most importantly on what they put into it. The sense of unique and loyal affiliation that many alumni feel for their college takes shape in the course of their undergraduate experience like a kind of imprinting. By a curious backward projection, they assume they could not have had the same extraordinary experience at any other college, but, in fact, it’s very likely that they would have formed a similar loyalty.
As colleges compete with one another for students, for resources, and for prestige, they rely increasingly on marketing techniques. There is a risk in these techniques of eroding credibility. Wanting to attract minority students, for example, some of us may include pictures in our admissions materials, leading students to think our colleges are more diverse than in fact they are. Those of us from residential private colleges may rely extensively on metaphors of connection and belonging, leading students to expect a more family-like community than we offer. By trying too exclusively to sell our institutions rather than represent them, we fail in educating the public. As a higher education community, we need to work together to help parents and their sons and daughters to become more educated consumers of our products. This will require more transparency.
I’ve already talked about the controversy about admissions and the need for greater transparency in our description of admissions policies and practices. The next major issue that I believe will emerge as a subject of public scrutiny is financial aid. As college costs rise, and as increasing numbers of students receive aid, both consumers and the government will insist upon disclosure of aid policies and practices. As a higher education community, we must anticipate this issue. Colleges and universities have been cautious in regard to discussions among themselves about financial aid since the 1991 antitrust lawsuit against the so-called “overlap group” of 23 selective colleges. While the set of restrictions that colleges adopted as a consequence of the suit may serve individual consumers well in encouraging colleges to compete with each other in the financial aid packages they offer, it has not served higher education well as a whole in regard to the very issue with which the public is most concerned -- cost. It obscures financial aid packaging in a way that keeps consumers from understanding why they pay what they pay, and it encourages colleges to compete for top students in a bidding war that takes resources away from the most needy. The time has come for a more open discussion of financial aid. To begin this public conversation, we must be more open among ourselves, pressing on the boundaries of what may be too cautious an interpretation of federal antitrust restrictions.
A third area in which we can profit from more candid discussion is the assessment of quality, in the sense of the comparative value of a college’s or university’s academic program. Colleges’ and universities’ own assessment of quality is largely an internal matter, conducted through the peer review process of accrediting bodies. There is little attempt to communicate the results of this process externally in anything but the most summary terms. Accreditation is therefore less effective than it might be in providing assurance of public accountability. As a consequence, we are now seeing a clumsy attempt on the part of the federal government to insert itself into the accrediting process in the higher education reauthorization act. A more public accrediting process might forestall such misguided attempts.
For its assessment of comparative quality, the public depends upon commercially motivated rankings by publications like U.S. News and World Report or any of a large number of college guides. I will not spend much time describing what is wrong with these rankings from the point of view of the higher education community because I am sure you are familiar with the arguments. If only the relative quality of institutions could change as quickly as that of sports teams. Institutional change is a long process. Furthermore, it is misleading to represent the relative strengths of a very diverse set of institutions with a single ordinal ranking as if they were dishwashers or mid-size sedans. Yet attacks on U.S. News and World Report and similar rankings miss the point that they are filling a vacuum. Can higher education itself, or some trusted partner like a foundation, or higher education association, create a template for a data bank that would enable public constituencies to compare institutional characteristics and measures of performance?
State college and university systems often develop comparative measures of performance of schools within their systems; when I was at the University of California, I relied extensively upon comparative data provided by the Office of the President as a useful benchmark in assessing Berkeley’s performance in a large range of categories. However, such data enables one to make comparisons only within a single system, and much of it is publicly available only upon request. The ranking of graduate programs by the National Council on Research provides a national, public, and highly reputable measure of quality, but one that involves only graduate programs.
There would be many challenges in such a project -- deciding which indicators to use, making sure the data was comparable. We also would have to figure out a way to assess the progress of students toward a degree as they move among institutions. The Business-Higher Education Forum describes a trend they call the deinstitutionalization of higher education, by which they mean the increasing tendency of students to take courses from several institutions before graduating. Today, 60 percent of undergraduates attend more than one institution in the course of earning their degree, and 40 percent of students who transfer do so across state lines. Our traditional measures of productivity -- graduation rates, time to degree -- do not capture such students and therefore underestimate the contribution made by institutions that students attend en route to graduation. As pressure mounts to increase degree production, we have to make sure we are measuring it right.
A national data bank would help us do so by accomplishing several things. It would provide the foundation for a more educated public discussion of measures of quality in higher education, it would help students and their parents make good choices, and it would deflect legislative initiatives to impose misguided accountability requirements.
Data, of course, tells only part of the story. We also need to lead a fuller public discussion of what constitutes quality in higher education, why it costs what it does, and the trade-offs involved. Ideally, we should make a partner of the media in this conversation. And to conduct it credibly and well, we need to be willing to let down our spin. Because we all want to use the media to forward our individual institutional agendas, we can sometimes be less candid than we might be about issues in higher education where candor might serve the entire community well.
With funding from the Ford Foundation, a new national commission is grappling with issues of accountability in higher education. Not surprisingly, one of the divisive issues among members of the commission is whether colleges and universities should set their own standards or be answerable to standards set by legislatures. No one in higher education welcomes further government regulation; the current bill reauthorizing the higher education act includes a number of clumsy and misguided measures.
Many trends in higher education will increase demands for accountability. As the cost and value of higher education rise, as the growth in student population strains capacity, as students move more frequently among institutions, as colleges diversify their income streams, pressure for regulation will increase. In order to avoid costly and intrusive regulation, we need to make our internal systems of assessment more transparent to the public. Once you enter a climate dominated by demands for accountability, you have already experienced an erosion of public trust. As educators, we need to build on the confidence that the public has in our institutions. We will all benefit from a more educated public. In order to develop such a public, we must communicate more openly about the issues of greatest public concern -- cost, pricing, and value, and admissions, financial aid, as well as access. This, in many cases, will not be easy. We are out of habit with candor, but it has never been more critical or more urgent.