Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Academic Capitalism and the Impact on State Spending for Higher Education: Perceptions from Members of the Oklahoma State Legislature

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Academic Capitalism and the Impact on State Spending for Higher Education: Perceptions from Members of the Oklahoma State Legislature

Article excerpt


The integration of universities into the market economy has given rise to numerous research studies over the past two decades (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter & Rhodes, 2004; Ehrenberg, 2000; Tuchman, 2004; Blumenstyk, 2001; Mowery & Ziedonis, 2000). Academic capitalism contends that an interdependent relationship exists between higher education and the market economy. Furthermore, the theory indicates that by engaging in market behavior, universities will make changes to their organizational governance by developing new offices and personnel to manage these relationships. The interconnectedness of the new networks alters the identity of institutions and their relationship to external stakeholders (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).

Research suggests that since 1940, higher education has undergone a systematic shift (Ehrenberg, 2000). The implications of this shift have been the subject of much debate, especially with regard to funding, student education, affordability, access, and the future of higher education itself Although many scholars have contributed to the larger body of work, the landscape of higher education has continued to change, making further research necessary. This study explores the existing research related to higher education funding past and present. The study is not limited to funding figures, but embraces a discussion of the shifts in politics, society and culture that have collectively impacted state spending on higher education and resulted in the perpetuation of academic capitalism. Research demonstrates that the percentage of university operating budgets funded by state governments has decreased significantly since 1980 (Ehrenberg, 2000; Rizzo, 2004). Recent literatures has explored some of the factors contributing to this change, and its potential impact on higher education establishments.

The percentage of higher education expenses funded by state governments decreased significantly from the late 1940s (Boyd, 2002; McKeown-Moak, 2001; McPherson & Schapiro, 2006), while the average tuition price at public institutions increased by 248% between 1970 and 2001 (Ehrenberg, 2000). States funded 74% of the cost of higher education at public institutions in 1970, but by 2000 that figure had fallen to 43% (Rizzo, 2004). State allocations for higher education nearly tripled from the early 1970s, reaching over $60 billion in FY2000 (Rizzo, 2004) and $88 billion in FY2009 (SHEEO, 2009). However, these figures can be deceptive. The number of students attending college rose substantially, thus limiting the funding increase by percentage of students enrolled to only 1% per year (25.9% total), and the consumer rate of inflation rose by 346.56% (Financial Trend Forecaster, 2010). In addition, between 1980 and 1996 the educational expense per student rose 42 percentage points higher than consumer price inflation (Kane & Orszag, 2004).

The effects of academic capitalism has gradually impacted state spending on higher education since 1980. There seems to be an evolving relationship between students, universities, governments, the economy, and business (Robst, 2001). Universities have developed as interstitial organizations, producing knowledge and forming partnerships with both the public and private sectors (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997). This relationship has had a profound impact on university spending, campus infrastructure, and revenue streams. This study is a glimpse in to that evolving relationship. It is intended to capture legislative perceptions of university needs.


The purpose of this research was to explore how members of the Oklahoma State Legislature and legislative staffers perceived higher education's level of financial need in the state. A qualitative design was chosen to explore how legislative members and staffers interpreted and understood their experiences. The fundamental premise of a qualitative study is that social reality is situated in how members interpret its meaning (Creswell, 2009). …

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