Public universities located in states with systems that
enhance political control and universities whose trustees
are selected by nonacademic stakeholders charge
significantly lower prices than universities located in
states with decentralized systems and those whose
trustees are selected by academic stakeholders.
Effects of State Postsecondary
Education Structures on Public
University Prices and Spending
Robert C. Lowry
Governance of public universities is a salient policy issue in many states. McGuinness (1997) notes that nine states enacted major changes in postsecondary education governance structures during 1991–1997, and other states have since made changes or continue to debate them (Ackerman, 1996; Oppel, 2000; Shannon, 1997). Nonetheless, there is no consensus regarding the relative merits of political control versus autonomy. Whereas university administrators typically seek greater autonomy (MacTaggart and Assoc., 1996, 1998), some analysts argue that universities in states with more political oversight are more responsive to the interests of those who are not professional academics. Part of this debate concerns the price paid by students to attend college. A recent study by the California Higher Education Policy Center concluded, for example, that families pay a lower share of total institutional operating costs in states that have a “systemwide mechanism for representing the public interest in budget decisions” than do families in states that lack such a mechanism (Bowen and others, 1997). This study did not attempt to control for all of the various cost and demand factors that might affect tuition and fees at individual university campuses,
This chapter is a revised version of an article titled “Governmental Structure, Trustee Selection, and Public University Prices and Spending: Multiple Means to Similar Ends,” American Journal of Political Science, Oct. 2001, 45, pp. 845–861, copyright University of Wisconsin Press.