Some years ago, the Pope Center published a paper by economics professor Robert Martin in which he argued that college officials would much rather spend their time trying to raise more money than in trying to lower costs and improve efficiency. In this Real Clear Policy piece, Tom Lindsay supports his argument, specifically with regard to the very inefficient use of facilities we typically find at colleges. He quotes architectural planners Philip Parsons and Gregory Janks, who say that “Colleges have been prodigal.” Indeed so.
Some schools have been trying to make more efficient use of space to lower their costs, and we will no doubt see more of that as the incentives swing away from merely getting bigger to getting more efficient. Lindsay provides several examples in his article, including Kean University in New Jersey and BYU-Idaho. And there is also the ultimate space-saving innovation, online courses.
Creative destruction occurs when people find better and more efficient ways of doing things. There wasn’t much reason to search for them in higher education’s fat years, but it appears they’re behind us.