Sunday, February 17, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
Improving Education Requires Refining The Teacher Workforce
I believe that if we truly want to improve public education we have to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers. In the business world if you consistently fail to perform you're fired. But this is not the case in our schools. You pratically have to be caught having an affair with a student or abusing a child to be fired. Results don't matter. We hold our teachers to a standard so low its absolutely disgraceful. I think the majority of our teachers are more capable than that. And I think our students deserve better. They deserve better than the standard being not breaking the law. That doesn't cut it in the business world, and it shouldn't cut it in schools. Public schools, after all, are suppose to benefit the students, not provide jobs you can never get fired from for grown adults. Unless we are willing to fire underperforming teachers we won't have significant improvements in education. If we don't, then there will be individual students are stuck with these bad teachers, who will suffer because of it. It is important to remember our educational policy affects individuals kids, its not just theoretical. I'm not out to hurt teachers but to help students, who should be the focus of education.
I should point out that I'm not for firing teachers out of the blue. They deserve to know their standing, whether they are doing an exceptionally good job, and average job, or are underperforming. They deserve a second chance to improve, to put forth the effort if they've grown apathetic under the current culture of mediocracy. They deserve honest feedback. They deserve to respond to criticism, to set the facts straight if they fail their evaluations are incorrect. To fire them without such a chance would be cruel and ineffective. I imagine many teachers would do better knowing that they could get fired for underperforming and rewarded for good work. After all, honestly, how hard would you try at your job if you were set for life? The underperformers should be offered help to improve if they choose. For that matter all teachers should be given help to improve, No one reaches a point where there is nothing new to learn, no way to improve. New teachers should be mentored by more experienced teachers. Continuous improvement for everyone.
Politicians are always saying that teachers are underpaid, and should be paid more. But bad teachers are grossly overpaid. Good teachers are grossly underpaid. We need to get rid of bad teachers and pay good teachers more, a lot more. People will object saying that student test scores don't give an accurate picture of a teacher's performance. I would agree 100%. We can't rely entirely on a teacher's students' test scores, that is only a small component. We have to trust principals to evaluate their teachers. People again will say that's a hard thing to do. Yes it is. In the business world managers, executives, CEOs are always having to evaluate their employees and its almost never easy, except in cases of gross misconduct. Principal's can use a variety of ways to evaluate their teachers.Student test scores is a small component. Input from fellow teachers and students is another. Interviews with the teachers, having them write down and talk about their accomplishments from the past year and their development needs for the next year, is a third way. Again, this is not easy, but its as necessary as in business. If a principal finds it easy to fire then they should fired themselves, as they should if they can't make tough decisions. It goes without saying principals also have to be held to tough standards, not just the teachers.
I suggest that we hire mathematicians to develop algorithms to use student test scores to evaluate teachers. What do I mean here? I mean algorithms that would show how students improve or fall behind as they go from teacher to teacher, year to year. Right now if a student had a bad teacher they'd probably score lower not just that year, but the next year. But if the next year they had a good teacher, their score would likely improve, although it might still be below average. So through complicated statistical analysis like that, we could use test scores to provide a better view of how teachers are actually performing. Again, its not the whole picture, but it would be an aid in teacher evaluation. I could post a whole blog on student testing, so I'll save that for another time.
Rewarding good teachers is not just the right thing to do, its the best thing to do. It will get teachers to try harder, knowing that they will be rewarded. It will help attract more of the best and brightest of our society into the teaching profession. Its no secret that teachers don't make a lot of money. No one will ever go into teaching just for the money. But if you're a bright student with many options deciding on a career and actually interested in teaching, but realize you have to raise your family on a teacher's salary, you're going to be less likely to choose to teach. On the other hand, there are currently people in teaching because its a paycheck, you get a lot of vacation, and you don't really have to worry exereting yourself too much. Colleges of education generally attract many students who aren't the best students. If we reward good teachers we will both motivate teachers and attract generally more qualified people into the teaching career.
We also need to offer combat pay. Combat pay is where teachers are paid more to teach in challenging schools, i.e. schools in dangerous and poor areas. The goal is of course to attract good teachers there to turn the schools around. Combat pay has to be high enough that it makes up for the tough assignment and actually attracts good teachers who would otherwise take easier assignments that many better schools gladly offer them even though they're the ones who can do the most good at failing schools. Combat pay shouldn't just be student loan forgiveness but cold, hard cash. Otherwise what incentive will those who didn't take out student loans because their parents saved or more imporatantly because they were exceptionally good students and received scholarships do? And what happens after they're their long enough to have their loans forgiven, then there is no incentive to stay even if they are experienced by this time with working with underperforming students from tough neighborhoods? No, we have to pay them more money. The amount would have to be determined by a study to find out how much money it would take to make someone as likely to take a hard assignment.
We must encourage people from challenging technical fields to teach math and science by paying them more to teach, a proficiency of which is necessary for America's long-term succes in a globalized world. People who are skilled in the areas of math and science have a lot of higher paying job options before them than teaching. Wouldn't it be good to have math and science teachers who really know math and science, who are excited about the subjects, rather than have math and science teachers who never majored or worked in those areas. It would be great to have people with real world work experience, who can explain how can explain why the subjects matter, how the topics they're teaching are relevant and important to learn. To do that requires more competitive pay. It also requires allowing professionals who want to try teaching to get in the classrooms before they have to go back to the class themselves. If you have to get a masters in education before you can find out whether teaching is for you or not then you're going to be significantly less likely to try teaching.
Going along with encouraging more people to enter education, preferably enough so there is competition for teaching jobs, because competition breeds excellence, is a change to the current pension system. Most school districts or states probably have an old-school (pun intended) pension system in place, where you have to work so many years in the district or state before you are vested, and even then don't get full benefits unless you retire from working in that district or state. I suppose the goal is to encourage teachers to stay working there but in the end I would say it hurts more than it helps. First off, we shouldn't be encouraging bad teachers to stay. I'm sure there are teachers who realize teaching isn't a good profession for them but have to stay because they need the retirement benefits. But more importantly, I imagine it hurts encouraging people to enter teaching. Today, chances are you won't work for the same company your whole life, you'll likely change jobs many times. A company who now has a traditional pension plan instead of 401(k) would have a hard time attracting new employees who want job mobility. Chances are, most teachers are married to someone who brings in more money and whose job dictates where they live. People who otherwise would try teaching are less likely to since they offer traditional pensions which would hurt their retirement if they realize they aren't fit to be teachers and got out, or because they want to move. Not everyone who tries teaching is going to be good, so by offering 401(k)s instead of pensions the pool of applicants will increase, allowing schools to find good teachers and weed out the bad. So we need to phase out pension plans, of course keeping promises to current teachers but giving new teachers and current teachers who choose 401(k)s instead. Not only would this be to the benefit of education, but its to the benefit of local governments since 401(k)s don't tie their hands later on down the road with huge pension obligations when their revenues might be down because of a hurting economy, like today.
The teacher unions won't be wild about this plan, they would be pretty adamantly opposed to it. Which is unfortunate, because for the vast deal of teachers it will help them. So how do we pass it, since a plan that can't be passed is useless? Hook higher teacher pay, both rewards for great teachers and higher pay for teachers in general, to the ability to fire bad teachers. If a teacher union won't agree to eliminating underperforming teachers then the only pay increases their teachers get is an adjustment for inflation. This would put pressure on the teachers to encourage their union to agree. If we don't get rid off bad teachers and raise teacher pay then we're paying bad teachers more. For the first school districts or states to adopt such a plan, they would get the added benefit of attracting good teachers from other places with the rewarding pay. I truly believe that improving our public schools requires refining the teaching workforce more than different teaching methods or more money for schools besides what's necessary for competitive teacher pay.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
An Apology for Conservatism
Conservatism recognizes that there is indeed a definitive right and wrong. There is great evil in the world, although there is also great good. It is unfortunately not always easy, not usually easy, to discern but that foundation remains nonetheless. It is a foundation for government, the basis for laws. Our founding fathers recognized this. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." And it remains, I think, a necessary component for the functioning of a successful society. Now to be clear, I am not saying we need to institutionalize any particular religion, the founding fathers also saw the dangers of that mistake repeated many times throughout history. But right and wrong is a necessary basis for government.
Conservatives see the hearts of men for what they are, corrupt. This is why we need government, to restrain our passions, our lust, our greed, and our pride. Yes, conservatives see that government is a necessary evil, as are taxes. Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. Yes, conservatives believe we need government and taxes, they don't want a world of anarchy. Government protects us within a state from fellow citizens and from threats from other states.
It is the same reason that we need government that conservatives see the need to limit and restrain government, because man's heart is corrupt. People ultimately must run any government. And when you put corrupt people in power their corruption can overtake them. The old adage is true, "absolute power corrupts absolutely." That is why we have a system of checks and balances and separation of powers. No one person or group of people get too much power. And that is why in part conservatives see the need to limit the size and role of government. Many people have come up with and implemented grand plans for utopias, to the ruin of their societies. That men are corrupt, including themselves, is a fact that all these agents of change have sadly failed to recognize. Try to create a heaven on earth and you will end up with a terrestrial hell for this very reason.
Conservatives believe in people, not the government, being responsible for their lives. We have a right to the pursuit of happiness, not an entitlement to happiness. When the government starts doing more and more things for people they become more and more dependent upon the government. You end up with a welfare state, in effect a mommy state that picks up their socks after them. Conservatives on the other hand are for citizens being equipped for running their own lives. They are the proud father that watches as their son experiences triumph and learn's from their mistakes. Conservatives are not for leaving people out in the cold either. Conservatives take the approach of "feed a man to fish, feed them for a day, teach a man to fish, feed them for a lifetime." Hence why conservatives favor job training as opposed to welfare. Help people get the skills they need to compete in the world and they can have more income and more importantly a far more satisfying and rewarding life than they can livng off of government handouts. When a job is outsourced people should be provided the opportunites to learn new skills and go into a new, better line of work rather than live off a unemployment check searching through the classifieds for similar jobs that also are being outsourced. Work is not to be viewed as drudgery. Work should be interesting, rewarding, and challenging. It feels good to bring home a paycheck that you earned, to be the one providing for your family, and even to be a supporter of rather than a drag on your society by paying taxes. Perhaps conservatives have done a bad job both portraying this as their goal and more importantly pursuing it as a goal. Hence the push to create personal savings accounts in social security. Its a person's money first, they should be the one to save and invest it for retirement. In my own opinion the government never should have started social security to begin with; its a massive pyramid scheme about to break when you get down to it. Hence personal responsiblity in health care, individuals are better suited to manage their health than any government program, not to say changes don't need to be made.
When Conservatives trust people to be responsible, they are also trusting the free market to work by invisible hand to the benefit of society. Competitive markets are best at determining prices, not the government. Competition keeps prices low for consumers. Businesses need to make profit to survive drives them to be efficient. The government doesn't work that way. When the government does things inefficiently, they just tax more or borrow more to pay for it. When the government manages things it ends up with an inefficient, cumbersome bureaucracy that would never cut it in the business world. When the government sets price control that are relevant then we either end up with shortages or surpluses, just think gas price limits and agriculture subsidies, neither has ended up well. Conservatives recognize a need for the government to make sure markets don't turn into monopolies and to make sure companies play fair, but in general see that it is better for the government to stay out of the way. Indeed, conservatives believe the economy is helped best by the government when it gets out fo the way by keeping taxes low and minimizing regulation. Conservatives also see that free trade benefits us and other countries in the long run. Yes, some people's jobs go overseas, but that is why there is a need for job retraining to help them get better jobs. If the government has a role in the economy its in helping people transition, not in helping them hold onto the old economy. Conservatives see that some things don't work well in the free market, like defense, but in most cases the free market is better at allocating resources.
Conservatives are for doing just that, conserving. There is a place for tradition and convention in our modern world. There is also a place for change, but that change must be slow and prudent. Conservatives don't fall for change for change sake, they ask the important question of "to what are we changing?" Hastily, unprudent change seldom turns out for the good. The Soviet Union was a great change, but was it a change for the better? Certainly not. No, conservatives have never drunk the Kool-Aid. Conservatives "prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't." Change, no matter how good its intentions, results in disruption. Conservatives weigh the disruption when discerning whether the change is merited. Conservatives believe in making decisions in part based on how it affects later generations. The do not believe we should burden our children and children's children with debt and with problems we've left unresolved out of lack of leadership and political cowardice.
Conservatives in the United States respect the Constituion. It limits the government, it protects our liberty. We cannot get rid of habeas corpus, we cannot get rid of the right to a fair trial, in the name of national defense. Liberty is valued above security. "Live free or die." They value the federal system setup in the Constitution. One of its great merits, besides protecting us from tyranny, is that it allows individual states to experiment with changes without risking the whole nation. If a state tries a new approach and succeeds, then it can spread to other states. If they try and fail, then we all learn from their mistake. Conservatives believe local people are better suited to make decisions that affect them locally then any national institution.
Conservatives, I would submit, should be associated with conservation. We inherited the earth and all its beauty and yes, all its resources from our ancestors. We must likewise keep in mind that our children, our children's children, and their children, will inherit what we leave or don't leave behind. We wouldn't want to leave them a bankrupt government, nor should we want to leave them a bankrupt environment. It would be a shame if our grand-children aren't able to experience the great outdoors because of our action or inaction. We are stewards of this earth, not owners. God gave us the earth for our use but also with the responsibility to take care of it. In addition to allowing our ancestors to have the same priveledge of enjoying the great outdoors, of visiting national parks and snorkeling through corral reefs, there is also the economic impact to consider. We must also conserve the environment so that we will continue to have its renewable resources. We must conserve because climate change can hurt the economy. Conservatives should be at the forefront of conservation, working towards solutions that protect the earth and help our economy. We should remember President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican and a conservationist, who set aside 150 million acres of national parks and nature preserves. When Congress went to block him in 1907 he slipped in 16 million acres the night before by executive order.
Conservatives know that the health of a state, particularly a democratic state, rests upon the virtue, knowledge, and wisdom of the people. And so conservatives see the need for a good education system. Besides keeping taxes low its one of the few positive things the government can actually do for the economy. Having well-educated people will only be more important for getting jobs in the globalized economy as time goes on. This is essential if people are to be responsible for their lives. Students should also graduate knowing how to handle their money as well, in order to avoid credit card debt and the repeat of the subprime mortgage crisis. But education is not just about getting people ready for successful careers in order to make lots of money and thus stimulate the economy. A good education system must create citizens, not just consumers. The children in school today will one day be choosing our leaders, some of them will eventually be our leaders. They must be ready to take that responsibility seriously and cast their sacred ballots. That requires knowing how our government work and knowing history to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. Education must develop students' minds, shape them, make them think critically, even if it means they start questioning their education, especially if it means they start questioning their education. Even if we pump out students with technical skills, we are failing students if they can't think critically. Conservatives believe in an education system which benefits the students.
Conservatives recognize it is both the right and duty of a sovereign state to protect and defend their borders. The government has the right to know and control who crosses the border, and indeed they ought to do so. There are many people from around the world who desire to come to these United States, and it is unfair to them to simply let people cut in line and sneak across the borders. It is, more importantly, a national security issue. We need to know who is in the United States. Conservatives also recognize that our economy is dependent on immigration to fill jobs, and thus see the need to allow legal immigration via a guest worker program while cracking down on illegal immigration. Conservatives think that we need to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants, which will put a stop to people coming here in the first place. We definitely differ on what to do with those already here. Many have sympathy for those illegal aliens who are here and already have families and would rather pardon them than uproot them and send them home. Others conservatives think that the only way to put a stop to illegal immigration is to send a message by deporting those here. Its alright to have disagreements. We can disagree on the particulars and still be conservative, as long as we recognize the need to address illegal immigration and can arrive at a compromise solution that will take the necessary steps towards putting a stop to it.
I've tried to capture the essence of conservatism. I hoped to show how conservatism is a framework in which each policy fits, rather than a seemingly random collection of different stances. It is by no means complete nor will every self-described conservative agree with all of what I stated. As I said at the beginning, the nature of conservatism means there will be variation in conservative's views.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Reforming Health Care: Part 3 - Why A Government-Run Monopoly Is Wrong For America
First off, lets ask what is uniquely different between the United States with our private insurance system and other developed nations with a form of government run insurance, as it amounts to. Advocates in the United States seem to think that we will magically start spending less money on health care if we switch to socialized health care. This is not true. People in other countries are much healthier than Americans. In essence, our obesity makes us uniquely American. People in Europe don't have car-centric societies, they use public transportation and walk a lot more. (To be fair, Europe is more densely populated and so public transportation makes more fiscal sense to build light rail, etc.) They also eat healthier, not necessarily because they don't ever eat fattening food, but they eat in moderation, we eat fattening food to excess. To a large degree, we spend so much on health care because we have to treat preventable diseases caused by obesity, whereas countries in Europe do not. If we switch to a government run system then those costs do not go away. We don't have a health insurance problem so much as a health problem. Higher health care costs from obesity drive up insurance premiums, which drive people out of the system. Socialized medicine does nothing to fix this.
Second, lets look at how advocates say socialized health care costs save money. They say that a government run system is more efficient. There is less overhead, no marketing costs and no profits. To that I pose this question, what is so unique about the health care industry that would cause the same reasoning of lower costs do to lack of profits, marketing costs, and other overhead from applying to any other industry? Why should we in the United States not have a government run telephone system? You get the same thing no matter what provider, the ability to talk with another person, so why do we need so many competing companies? Cingular, Verizon, and other companies compete against each other for customers, which requires spending money on advertising, and all of them make profits. So why not cut them out and have the government provide our cell phone service? No profits and no advertising means lower bills. Why stop there? What about air travel? Do we really need all these different airlines when they all do the same thing of getting you from point A to point B, albeit some better than others. Then your frequent flier miles will work for any flight. I could keep listing examples, but I think you get the idea. So, when we carry this idea through to its logical end, what do we end up with? The USSR. The USSR failed though. But why, they don't have advertising costs and profits to make?
Supply and demand. Ceteris paribus, price determines the quantity demanded and price determines the supply provided. Communism failed to realize this. They couldn't set the right price, the right supply, and they definitely couldn't set the right demand. There's either surpluses or shortages. But under capitalism, competition sets the right price, the right supply produced, the right quantity demanded. (Not perfectly, but better than communism.) Now capitalism only works for the consumer when you have competition. Competition keeps the price down because you can't charge too much because another company will undercut your prices, stealing your customers. When there is no competition you have a monopoly which can set the price much higher than consumers would like, hence anti-trust laws. Socializing health care would result in a government monopoly, not any better than a corporate monopoly.
John Edwards has said that he would be create government insurance packages that people could choose to buy modeled on medicare. "American health consumers will decide which works best. It could continue to be divided. But it could go in one direction or the other, and one of the directions is obviously government or single-payer. And I’m not opposed to that." He should be opposed to that. Sure, initially a government system would be able to cost less by foregoing profits, etc., and drive private insurance companies out of business. Its the after the private insurance companies are driven out of business that concerns me. Just like we don't allow corporate monopolies because they're bad for consumers, we shouldn't allow a government monopoly of health insurance. After the private insurance companies are put out of business because they like every other business in America must make a profit to survive, what will set prices when the government doesn't have a target to beat, private insurance prices? What will determine the level of quality that can be provided when there is no target to beat? Need I remind you of how good the USSR was at setting prices without competition? In a few years the government will fail to invest in new innovative technologies that could lower costs and raise quality since they don't have to respond to competition. We will have a stagnant and then decaying health care system. I might point out that corporations take profits and reinvest them. If the government plan doesn't take profits then they won't have money to reinvest and that will either not happen or the costs will be added to your tax bill.
If anything is wrong with our private health care system with competing companies then it is that there is not enough competition. Employers choose health plans, not the consumers who have to use them. If we had a system that gave consumers choice and information (definitely lacking today) then I think we would see costs lower and quality rise. I've already addressed this issue so I will refer you to my health insurance plan that would introduce more competition while putting people in the system, not pushing out the sick. (Reforming Health Care - Part 1 - Evil Insurance Corporations, Reforming Health Care - Part 2 - Preventative Measures and Insurance)
Friday, February 01, 2008
Taking The High Costs Out Of Higher Education - Innovative Ways To Reduce U of L's Budget
1- Cut the insanely, ridiculously high mandatory meal plan. When I was a Freshman I was required to purchase an $850 per semester meal plan. (per semester!) There was no way I could spend it all on my own, nor should I have to have spent that much of my money at U of L's poor food services. I had to buy food for friends, and then at the end of the year by a bunch of overpriced groceries, to keep our food service (Chartwells) from getting free money. But now it’s gone up to $1000 per semester. It’s not a question of if tuition will go up, but by what insanely huge amount. Reducing the meal plan would put real money into student's pockets, helping to offset some of the tuition increase. Just cutting back to the level when I was a freshman would save residential Freshman $300. It’s the least we can do, and it doesn't take much to do it.
2- Another easy thing we can do to help students in lieu of a major tuition increase is stop going to new edition of textbooks that are almost identical as the old edition. It’s no secret that textbook manufacturers make money by releasing new editions. Let’s say no to this, at least for the next couple of years while our budget is cut and tuition extra high. Professors should have to show a legitimate reason for requiring a new book.
3 - Get rid of our current, crappy e-mail system. Most students don't use it for their primary e-mail, most just have it forward e-mail to their personal account. I only log in to clear it out every so often. There are plenty of free options out there, my favorite Gmail, let’s just use them. Believe it or not, there are universities that have switched to Gmail. Google takes over, they keep the same domain name, e.g. louisville.edu, and the same addresses, customize the logo, etc., all for FREE. We should not continue to pay for a dissatisfactory service that doesn't have enough storage. (And if you go to U of L you know the spam filter for all our money isn't even built in, you have to login to another system.) We could use Gmail for free and get gigs of storage. Take our backroom operations and make them someone else's front room operations.
4- Gmail of course makes money by showing ads based on your e-mail. So along those lines, put advertisements on our other online systems, (e.g. Ulink, Blackboard) to help pay for them, if not make money. And while we're on advertising, put ads up on campus, especially on those wasted flat panel TVs that show the weather. (I've obviously already been outside, I know the weather)
5- Corporate sponsorship. Anything a company is willing to pay for, let them. It’s happening in sports, why not in the world of academia. Sell the naming rights to buildings on campus. How about the KFC Student Activities Center? We can't make people change what they call places, but guarantee everything in official university communication their name will come up with the mention of their building. Hell, if they offer enough, sell the naming rights to U of L. "Papa John's University of Louisville?"
6- Advisors, what do they really do. So far, I've haven't been impressed with most of my advisors. (A few were ok.) They seem to just rubber stamp your schedule rather than truly guide you. We should develop a dynamic online system for aiding students in picking out classes. It could check your proposed classes against your transcript to make sure you meet the prerequisites and check against your degree requirements. If you don't have a prerequisite you would either change or fill out an online form seeking an exception. And if it doesn't meet a requirement or its one you've already done, it would confirm that you are aware of this and let you either change or continue. Additionally, you could enter in the classes you want to take and have it generate some different possibilities that don't conflict. And as you make changes it would eliminate choices. This would useful even if we didn't have a budget crisis. No one enjoys firing people, (besides Donald Trump) but with a 12% cut in funding some hard choices are going to have to be made. Between keeping professors and keeping advisors, I choose professors. The remaining advisors could respond to exemptions, e-mails, phone calls, and requests for face-to-face meetings. Or, perhaps we could outsource some of this advising, or have student volunteers from each major provide advice, and cut the number of advisors down further. If we implement this with the help of all the current advisors, they can put the development and implementation of an online advising system on their resume and use it to get a better job elsewhere. In effect, they digitalize their own job, and could do the same elsewhere for more money.
7- Push online classes. Do we really need to be spending so much money so students can sleep through lectures with hundreds of other students? Those classes are prime targets for being done online. Technology has advanced enough to make this possible. No more falling asleep in an 8 am class. No more straining your eyes to read your professor's horrible handwriting on the chalkboard or text on PowerPoints that are too small for the room, just peruse your professor PowerPoints notes on your computer at home. Submit your homework online. Of course, you would have to come in occasionally to take tests, which maintains the credibility of online classes. Right now at U of L they charge more for online courses, even if you're full time. Online classes should cost less for U of L to run, if not we're doing them wrong. We should be encouraging online classes, not discouraging them through higher costs. We can market this not as a budget cost, but as a benefit of coming to U of L. "Your schedule shouldn't be flexible to class, but your class should be flexible to you." I'm not saying U of L should move all our classes online. I'm saying we should offer classes where there is not participation, not discussion, but just your professor lecturing in an online format. A lot of your higher classes in your major would probably stay as physical classes for the time.
8- Going hand in hand with online classes is the outsourcing of grading of homework, quizzes, and tests. Right now U of L has fired student graders. You can't tell me that won't affect what assignments your professors give you. If I were a professor I would move towards multiple choice scantrons and questions with one right, clear cut answer. Partial credit, not my problem. If outsourcing grading of some work would allow professors to have graders then its better than nothing. Submitting homework online would be pretty essential for this to simplify the process and allow for speedy processing of your assignments. If ran right the time between turning in an assignment and getting it back graded would decrease, maybe even to the next day. Another thing to do is have homework be filled in on a site so that a computer can grade it, and then you challenge anything you think the computer missed because of spelling, etc.
9- We can't just push the envelope anymore, we have to push beyond the envelope. Mailing costs too much, use e-mail. U of L sends out late notices via snail mail. These mailings for me go to my parents' house, my permanent address, not where I live during my time at college, and I don't find out for several weeks that I have forgotten to return a book. If that was done via e-mail (at least for a couple of weeks) it would not only save mailing costs, it would speed up the return of books and other materials. This can be applied across the board. Besides legally required mailings, and marketing material to potential students (we wouldn't want to look cheap), we should be doing mass mailings via e-mail.
10 - Every time I'm on campus late at night I notice the lights on in academic buildings, long closed. We are just throwing money away. We need to install motion sensors to turn lights off when people are absent. Some areas during the day are near windows and when the sun is shining bright could do without artificial light. So we also need ambient light sensors. Do we really need lights on in stairwells with windows during the day? Another place that could cut power, deserted book stacks in the library. Perhaps we could add solar panels too, if they can be shown to be fiscally feasible in Kentucky's climate. The initial costs to get these energy savings could perhaps be paid for using bonds, with would be paid off with a portion of the energy savings.
11 - Along with the cutting of our electric bill, if we aren't already expand recycling and use it as a way to cut waste disposal costs. We can either have the recycling taken away for free or even get paid for it, depending on how much effort we're willing to go to. Many large companies have turned to recycling to cut costs. Use these efforts to market U of L as a green university, turn cost cutting efforts into a marketing advantage. "U of L is turning green." "Green is U of L." "Green is the new red." I'm sure there are other efforts that could go into this. We should require all new campus buildings to be eco-friendly. (Not that there is going to be many new buildings with a 12% budget cut.) It's no longer enough to think outside the box, we have to get out if it and sell it for recycling because boxes cost too much.
12- Get rid of phones in the dorms. Most people today have cell phones. When I was living in the dorm I hardly ever used my dorm phone. I gave people my cell phone number and called people from my cell phone even when in my room. I'm sure I'm not the only one. If someone doesn't have a cell phone they can take their savings from not having a landline and apply that
to a cell phone. Or use Skype, etc. Or perhaps U of L could switch to running phones through the ethernet, surely that would save money and preserve dorm phones. One of the newer residence halls I stayed in did that, so apply that across campus.
13- Considering the cost of campus housing, there is no way building a new dormitory or residential hall doesn't pay for itself in a few years. So, increase on campus housing either by encouraging private businesses to do it or sell bonds to build them, to be paid off using the revenue from rent. We know that there is more housing demanded than U of L has, so this is a pretty sure bet as you can get that you will have increased revenue. Those bonds could perhaps be coupled with bonds to cover a system to turn of lights and other energy saving efforts. Perhaps a parking garage could be covered by those as well.
14- Encourage high schoolers to take new online college classes to get a leg up. More revenue, self-explanatory.
15 -Stop charging to pay tuition via credit card. We should be encouraging people to make payments online, cutting out paperwork, cutting overhead. If anything, lets either require payments be made online, (if you don't have a credit or debit card to put it on you could always provide your bank account routing number from your check) and charge to process paper checks. Students have access to computers on campus, so lack of access is no excuse. While we're at it, cut down the number of check writing by payroll by requiring all employees paid via direct deposit, and get rid of paper stubs. If they don't have a checking account then they can get one.
16- Conduct season ticket sales online. It used to be tickets were given on a first-come, first-serve basis and people camped out to get good tickets. Last year we switched to a lottery system to give tickets away, but you still had to show up at a certain time. When they got rid of the need to camp out they got rid of the need to conduct ticket sales in person. It’s a chaotic, inefficient process that needs to go. You stand in long lines to pay with a physical check or credit card number on a form filled in by hand. If you can't make it at that particular time and date you get screwed. Lets conduct it online, give a couple day window to go online, fill out an electronic form for everyone in a group seeking tickets together, enter in a credit card number or bank routing number, and let computers, not people do the work. It would save money, it would save time of both U of L and students, and it would reduce stress. This one makes sense no matter the budget situation.
17- Outsource tech support. I shouldn't be able to call tech support and hear an American voice on the other line. Additionally, besides switching to Gmail, we could see about outsourcing all of our IT to a company who specializes in that, if it will save money and improve service.
18- I would say cut orientation down to one day, no overnight stay, or better yet move it online, but I'm pretty certain U of L makes money off that. If that's not the case then get rid of it.
19- When it warms up shut off hot water to buildings where it’s not necessary. So, everywhere besides residential halls, the Student Activity Center since the gym is there and people don't want cold showers, the natatorium for the same reason, and maybe some of the buildings with labs depending upon the type of research. (Who knows what they're developing in the Belknap Research Building.) You don't have to have hot water for washing your hands, that's a luxury.
20 – This would go along with the online classes. Grad classes need to be offered online. At my workplace in Louisville, I know people who were getting Master's Degrees that the company pays for from schools hours away since they could do it online rather than physically show up for class at a particular time. That is lost money.
Just For Fun
1- Lease Miller Hall (probably the worse dorm on campus) out as a minimum security prison. Win-win for the state and for U of L.
2- Require tuition to be paid in Euros
3- Cut all sports that don't make money or at least break even.
4- On all tests add this question: "What's a 16 digit number that will provide U of L with $20?" (5% of grade)
5- Shut off AC and sell cold drinks outside of class.
6- Add "volunteer" hours as a requirement to degrees. Coincidentally, there will be many new "volunteer" "opportunities" on campus with all the layoffs.
There's how I would cut costs at U of L. I doubt these would add up to all our lost money from the state, but I think these would help. (I guess it depends in part on how many online classes we push, and how many professors we layoff because we have less classes to cover on a daily basis.) Drastic times call for drastic measures. A few thousand dollars here, a few thousand there add up. No cost is too small to consider cutting. As I mentioned, many of these make sense even if there wasn't a budget crisis, and some of these would actually result in improved quality. I tried to stick with things that wouldn't result in lower quality, although I'm sure those cuts are coming.