Economist Herbert Stein is credited for having observed, “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.” Such appears to be the state of higher education today—spiraling cost and declining value is bringing the entire economic structure of higher education into question. Moreover, many of the policies that have been designed to ameliorate the problem—from accreditation to increased federal financial aid—arguably have had unintended consequences of exacerbating those problems instead.
This Workshop on the Economics of Higher Education was designed to introduce law professors to the underlying economics of higher education with respect to both the demand and supply sides of higher education as well as the internal organization and ownership structures of higher education and the incentives those institutions create. A particular focus was on an examination of the potential for using competition, including competition between different forms of organization (for-profit versus non-profit and government-run colleges) as a device for reducing cost and increasing the quality and relevance of higher education in the modern era. A final session invited participants to share their research agendas and the application of the ideas from the Workshop to their research and teaching.