At the University of Memphis you can get a master of science degree in engineering with a certificate in Applied Lean Leadership. It's mostly lean tools based, but good stuff. Of course, that degree won't be cheap –better than a hundred grand by the time you spend your six years at Memphis to get it. I suspect it would be a bit more affordable, however, if the U of M had not increased their administrative ranks by 35% over the course of the last fifteen years while student enrollment stayed flat. The U is in financial trouble and a couple of years ago announced they would have to look at eliminating programs and increasing class sizes, and of course, raise fees and tuition.
They sound like so many manufacturers who are bulging with waste they think is necessary, and look to cutting the only things that add value and raising prices as the solution. Memphis is hardly the only school where paper shuffling waste is spinning out of control at a far greater rate than students are coming in the door. The Goldwater Institute released a study on "administrative bloat" and it seems that teaching kids the principles of lean while hiring administrators by the busload to engage in ever more 'management by committee' and jacking up prices to pay for out of control costs is more the rule than the exception.
The Ivy league is collectively out of control with Harvard increasing their total employment by 46% while enrollment actually dropped. In the interest of full disclosure, while the hallowed halls of the University of Cincinnati that I once debauched have admirably reduced total employment by 2% while increasing enrollment by the same 2%, they have accomplished that by slashing clerical and other support employees while adding a lot of administrators.
Academia has a spotty record when it comes to teaching the lean principles of eliminating waste, and maximizing value to their customers; and the Goldwater study makes clear their record of applying those principles is abysmal.
The big problem, I am convinced, is that the entire concept of college as we know it is waste and should be scrapped. When Harvard was formed in 1636, and the University of Cincinnati in 1870, the concept of a bunch of young people leaving home and congregating in a place where a handful of smart folks could teach them something made sense. In 2010 however, there is nothing they know in Cambridge or anywhere else on the planet that cannot be just as easily known in Barrow, Alaska.
A few years ago I was traveling somewhere and jet lagged enough to find myself in a hotel, channel surfing at two in the morning. I came across a local community college station that was broadcasting a lecture from an English professor from Ohio State. I don't recall where I was but it wasn't Ohio, and the idea was that the kids at the CC should tape the lecture and watch it as part of their curriculum. The guy was really engaging and I found myself watching an fascinating lecture on some nuance of literature and thinking I wish I had teachers like him.
Why should a kid have to travel anywhere and pay outrageous prices for a collection of instructors ranging from outstanding to wretched? Why can't a kid stay at home and learn English from that guy from Ohio State, and math from some great instructor from Cal Tech, and history from some brilliant lecturer from Texas A&M, and philosophy from the best Harvard has to offer? Kids are apt to take many – even most – of their classes online anyway. A year ago one of my kids took every class online and only had to go on campus to take mid-term and final exams. Sitting in a dorm 200 miles from home - or worse yet in an apartment off campus – paid for with federal grants and student loans to learn lessons as a captive to one school makes no sense… especially when the administration of that school is using much of that money to create a self-serving empire with little regard for the value provided for students.
A higher education system in which each professor has to compete with every other professor for students, one in which no kid has to leave his or her own bedroom if they so choose, and one without the waste of useless administrators and the outrageous expense of heating, air conditioning, powering and maintaining unnecessary, gargantuan buildings makes a lot of sense to me. It is a system that would cost a fraction of today's wasteful scheme. In other words – a system of higher education with a laser focus on teaching kids, without the bureaucratic, politically correct, paper shuffling, committee laden bloat parents and tax payers currently underwrite.