Purdue president Mitch Daniels deplores state of higher education

Just one week into his new position as president of Purdue University, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels released an open letter disparaging the current financial and professional state of American higher education.

Daniels, who briefly considered a run for the Republican presidential nomination, took up his new job last week after the conclusion of his second term as governor. Those who wondered what kind of administration a conservative reformer like Daniels would bring to Purdue weren’t kept in the dark for long; the new president immediately published a laundry list of problems facing higher ed, from the financial to the philosophical.

“College costs too much and delivers too little,” he wrote in the letter. “Students are leaving, when they graduate at all, with loads of debt but without evidence that they grew much in either knowledge or critical thinking.”

The letter doesn’t stop there. Daniels also criticized administrative bloat, grade inflation, political correctness, research vs. instruction, and the insolvency of various athletics programs.

“However fair or unfair these critiques, and whatever their applicability to our university, a growing literature suggests that the operating model employed by Purdue and most American universities is antiquated and soon to be displaced,” he wrote.

Such thinking, while common among higher education experts, is rarely expressed in public by top administrators –especially in their first few hours on the job.

His frankness won praise from faculty members who were especially supportive of his call to address administrative bloat.

“President Daniels gets an A+ for his efforts so far,” said J. Paul Robinson, chair of the University Senate and a biomedical engineering professor, in a statement.

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