The College Competition Proposal

New Mexico College Competition is a proposal to re-imagine higher education so that more creativity, innovation, learning, entrepreneurial collaboration, and human capital are produced with the resource inputs given to the process. By using the power of competition and free-markets, we will to make the higher ed process more productive. Beyond helping higher education, New Mexico should also experience a healthier economy and better governance.

A four-point plan:

1. Fund student college educations, not colleges

Currently, the NM state government directly assigns funds for the 24 state schools which then decide how much to charge in tuition and whether to give students tuition waivers and fellowships.

College Competition would set up three funding foundations to select students. Students¬†compete¬†for fellowships, with each foundation picking the best of the students for fellowships of different amounts of money and different lengths of funding. The students’ educations would be funded through the fellowships. Most importantly, the colleges would have to compete for students — both on quality and on price.

2. Spin-off physical facilities and student services from academic faculties

A corporation that is too vertically integrated can be seen to have management problems. Management can’t understand how each division interacts with the others, or they find themselves having too many tasks to focus on to get them all right. Our proposal is to separate the three distinct resources a university typically offers its students.

In this manner, just as a shopping mall manager brings together a variety of businesses, providing certain maintenance and information services, the physical facilities managers would compete for occupants in the spaces they manage. A particular facility would get occupants depending upon its ability to fulfill the productive, leisure, and entertainment/relaxation demands of students, faculty, and student services personnel.

Similarly, student services personnel would have to compete for business from faculty and students. There are a variety of student services activities that relate to the relationship between students and faculties — from admissions officers helping faculties choose students, guidance counselors helping students choose the best courses of study, and registrars helping manage grades and graduation. There are additionally student services professionals who help students become better at learning and manage life as a student — creating educational and social student activities, operating tutoring centers, helping students with personal dilemmas, helping students figure out how to pay for their educations, and assisting special needs students. Campus medical facilities could also be completely spun off from other student services.

Faculties are then able to focus on the value they add for each student in terms of scholarship and practical learning. Faculties still decide the personnel they will employ and the curricula they will offer. In fact, by having control of their own prices, they will have more control over the vision of each department within each college. Department administrators can budget over years by utilizing net revenues to pad thin years, invest in top talent, and find staffing solutions that make their departments ever more efficient.

3. Open the campuses to new faculties and business innovators

With points 1 and 2 in place, it is easy to see the next step. Why not allow physical resources to be bid for faculties from colleges across the state as well as online colleges and other faculties that provide educations in new and different manners?

By creating mechanisms for new faculties, new think tanks, new research labs, new media labs, and new businesses to live in the same environment with students will create an environment of innovation and put pressure on everyone on campus to be the very best they can be.

Some of the student fellowships could be setup to include work-study at these new institutions. Further, the funding foundations could be instructed to award a certain number of entrepreneurial graduate students who want to launch businesses on campus during, or after their studies have ended.

4. Accelerate education by sending many high school students directly to college

Why take 8 years to achieve what you could in 4 years? Students’ time and attention is a valuable resource that should not be wasted. When students move from attending high school to attending college instead, they get more for their time and they reduce the state’s burden for high school funding.

We don’t know exactly how many students will switch over if offered the choice. Public schools may complain about losing their best students to the college competition, because test score averages will fall. But, more attention can be directed to helping poorer performing students to achieve their dreams, and physical high school facilities can be repurposed to better serve communities.

Rio Grande Foundation recommends a pilot project in which one of the higher ed branch campuses or community colleges is remade into a 4-year college for 14-18 year olds, complete with boarding facilities and den mothers.

This is our four-point offering that we believe can dramatically change the lives of thousands for the better. We will continue to expand this project, and explain its vast dimensions as funding and time permit.

For questions about New Mexico College Competition, please contact our project team (link).