One of the continuing myths of the privatization craze in higher education is that outsourcing functions results in lower costs.  Here’s BGSU my august university’s president on the recent deal to privatize flight instruction, as reported in the Sentinel-Tribune:

President Mary Ellen Mazey told the trustees that this is the kind of collaboration with outside entities the university is pursuing to enhance programs while keeping costs down.  She cited the Falcon Health Center as another example.

But, short of magic, how can a corporation manage to make a profit, charge a university less money, and offer the same services as the university did?  Sure, there may be some efficiencies on the part of the company, but not much.  Usually, it happens through either cutting services or finding money elsewhere.  In BGSU’s my august university’s case, it’s by doing both.  And, come to think of it, the health center is a perfect example.The elimination of the university health center before the 2012-2013 academic year was heralded by Mazey our august president as being cost-saving to the university with no extra cost to the students.  But what really happened?  The money from BGSU’s our august university’s general fee that used to go to student health is going to pay for a fancy rec center.  No savings for the students there.  Meanwhile, because the health center is outsourced, students now have a co-pay for doctor visits.  Students and employees no longer have access to cheap flu shots (wonder how much in sick days that will cost the university, which pays for employee insurance?).  And students’ health insurance costs have gone up.  In sum, the service is worse, and overall costs aren’t lower, but they’ve been externalized, passed on to students, with the fiction that because BGSU our august university isn’t charging them, that the university cares about student costs.

In other words, BGSU our august university saved money.  But students’ overall costs have gone up and the quality of the service has gone down.  How long before special student aviation class fees go up?  Or classes being less available?  It’s not a matter of whether, but when, if you ask me.

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