Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Significant Themes Threading through Discussions on Public-Private Ventures

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Significant Themes Threading through Discussions on Public-Private Ventures

Article excerpt

Public higher education in the United States has become more privatized over the last half-century. As universities explore the role of public-private ventures, what are they talking about?

INTRODUCTION

PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES has become more privatized, and one way the academy has adapted to this new environment is through the use of a new funding model, the public-private venture (PPV.) PPVs are increasing rapidly in Georgia's higher education system, and yet little is known about the implications of their use. This issue is significant because billions of dollars are invested in higher education in Georgia alone. Higher education leaders must be able to utilize privatized financial tools and understand the best conditions for their use.

A qualitative case study was conducted on the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and specifically three of its housing facilities--two that are PPVs and one that is not. This study identified seven key findings about the breadth and extent of PPV use at this institution. Most significant was the identification of three distinct pressures present in the PPV model--control, responsibility, and oversight--or a "triangle of pressure." This newly introduced concept emphasizes the three pressures that must be carefully balanced when engaging in partnerships that involve both public and private entities in public higher education.

PRIVATIZATION IN PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION

The existing literature provides important context for this study. Even though privatization is still an emerging area of study in postsecondary education, particularly little research has been done on one unique, privatized aspect of the academy--the public-private venture.

Today, as public higher education privatizes more and more, there are four major issues that any leader must face:

(1.) NEW WAYS OF SEEKING FUNDING. Parents and students are taking on a greater portion of college costs; tuition and fees are increasing; the academy is adopting new businesslike perspectives; and there is a new public management approach and a greater reliance on voluntary gifts (Breneman 2004; Eckel 2007; Pusser 2002).

(2.) NEW WAYS OF ORGANIZING AND GOVERNING THE ACADEMY. There is an increased use of "garbage cans" (subunits like business incubators or advisory and fund-raising boards) linked to specific revenue streams; decision making has become more oriented toward economic utility since finding funding is a high priority for administration; and there is an increased use of part-time and non-tenure-track faculty (Morphew and Eckel 2009).

(3.) NEW WAYS OF CONTRACTING WITH THE STATE. Due to inadequate funding, the traditional contract between the state and public higher education--where the state supports the institution and the institution educates the state's citizens--is not being fulfilled. There is now renegotiation of this agreement. The workforce is being restructured and contracting out non-academic services is common. As a more market-centered approach is taken, issues like competition, reliance on market mechanisms, customer demand, and the adoption of businesslike perspectives grow in importance (Eckel 2007; Eckel, Couturier, and Luu 2005; McLendon and Mokher 2009; Morphew and Eckel 2009).

(4.) NEW IMPLICATIONS FOR STUDENTS AND THE QUALITY AND VALUE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. There is a potential for increased social and economic stratification between highly selective public colleges and their less selective counterparts. In general, state legislators continue to perceive higher education as a public utility. However, the public commitment to research, open debate, academic freedom, and faculty autonomy will continue to be minimized.

Over the last 25 to 50 years, public entities have been influenced more by the market (which provides private benefits) and less by the pursuit of the public good (which provides public benefits. …

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