Facing a severe—and increasingly—budget crisis, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon understandably wants higher education to cut expenses. He wants public colleges to reduce costs in a very specific way, however. According to a piece by Henry Waters in the Columbia Daily Tribune:

Faced with a red-ink flood of biblical proportion, the governor of Missouri looks for savings in public higher education by asking campuses to list programs granting fewer than 10 bachelor’s degrees, five master’s degrees or three doctoral degrees per year, implying these programs should be eliminated.

What? Perhaps programs with few dedicated students should be eliminated, but why is that necessarily the way to save the most money? Perhaps wasteful and expensive projects are located elsewhere in university budgets. The article continues,

Nixon denies he is micromanaging, but University of Missouri faculty disagree, asking why he did not target “top-heavy” administrative budgets as well. They explain why programs granting few degrees are important and eliminating them will not save significant money.

Right. Because in the real world if you want to cut costs you start with how much you need to cut and you go from there. You do not begin with the specific tactic to cut costs.

This proposal is like trying to cut money from the transportation budget by forcing the highway department to stop purchasing its least-used sealants. But how much money does the state need to cut? As Waters explains, it would make a little more sense to just tell higher ed how much money it needs to cut, and then let the schools figure it out on their own.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer