Sunday, April 3, 2011

Regent Wixom calls for a "new paradigm" for higher education in Nevada

Regent Michael Wixom has written a brief but very thoughtful piece in today's LV Sun calling for a "new paradigm" for higher education in Nevada.

Wixom, a business lawyer and prominent Republican, highlights the need for the state to develop more balanced, sustainable and broad-based approaches to revenue for a more secure future, so that we can escape the boom-and-bust cycles of the past. He calls for a more predictable and larger base budget for higher education. And he calls for Nevada to follow policies pursued in other states, which combine thoughtful consideration of structural efficiencies with focused investment in key areas of innovation.

Most notably, he offers an analysis of why this advice has been so hard to follow, borrowed from an historian of early modern European culture, Thomas Kuhn:

In light of Kuhn’s analysis of human behavior, we should not be surprised at those who demand critical and rigorous analysis of others, but are dismayed when they are faced with a critical and rigorous analysis of a program or institution that they cherish.

Nevertheless, we should not give up on such critical and rigorous analysis. We have too much at stake to surrender to outdated paradigms. The Board of Regents’ ongoing efficiency and effectiveness review of the entire higher education system requires us to consider each recommendation that follows from that review and adopt those that make sense. Further, we must continue our analysis of each institution and how we administer and deliver higher education in Nevada.

Such a new paradigm must involve some strategic planning -- identifying instructional and research priorities across the state (which has been done but is also always in need of modification) and then implementing budgets that pursue those priorities.

The Board of Regents has an opportunity to engage in just such an analysis at its special meeting this Friday.

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