Cost Containment for Higher Education: Strategies for Public Policy and Institutional Administration

By William Brand Simpson | Go to book overview

4
Strategies that Compare Costs and Benefits

Whether or not an activity should be engaged in by government is influenced by the philosophical and political considerations mentioned in the first chapter. The particular levels at which activities are conducted are determined within the framework of financial procedures and practices referred to in Chapter 2 and the educational planning discussed in Chapter 3. The present chapter covers strategies for cost containment that take account of both costs and benefits.

In discussions of public policy, some presentations reflect the view that problems can be solved simply by spending more. Other presentations refer to "savings" if costs are simply cut. In the first case, the presumed benefit is emphasized without regard to cost. In the second case, the reduced cost is emphasized without regard to benefit lost. In considering cost containment or reduction, one should consider not only the effect on benefits sought in the program being discussed but also effects on other activities. There is a combination of margins from which the financial claims on the resources used in a program are withdrawn -- private-sector consumption, private-sector saving and investment, and public-sector expenditure -- with foregone benefits differing in degree as to being quantifiable. Looking not at sources but at possible uses (including the return of funds to sources), the choice is between different feasible sets of activity levels for a variety of activities, the sacrifice required for greater support for higher education, for instance, being the combination of benefits foregone from withdrawing resources at the margin from other activities.

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