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As a University of Chicago Ph.D. candidate, I’ve not only undertaken investigative reporting of my home institution, the famed Obama library site and a college rankings powerhouse, but also used that odd opportunity to sort out consequences from causes and identify our higher ed system’s major problems.
Currently, higher ed’s greatest flaw is its pre-modern, pre-democratic institutional structure: although 99.9% of universities are permanently dependent on taxpayer-funded student loans and research grants, their ultimate authorities are either self-appointing or politically appointed and thus face inadequate checks-and-balances against corruption.
In other words, vital stakeholders like alumni and frontline mission fulfillers of educators and researchers can’t say “enough!” with a simple vote, even when “badmin” seek personal prestige through unduly hasty building campaign or counterproductive cover-ups, or they even go and start blatantly self-enriching through CEO salaries and crony contracts.
This fundamental problem, however, is compounded by a second, even less discussed problem, higher ed’s “scrutiny gap” – that is, the blind spot in press coverage that gives colleges too much free rein with our tax money.