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The ‘Lean College:’ A no-frills alternative for higher education

By   /   November 6, 2013  /   No Comments

GET LEAN: With the costs of college skyrocketing, a policy brief from a free-market think tank argues for a no-frills education model.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. – Is it time to start thinking seriously about alternatives to the traditional model for higher education?

After all, tuition rates — as well as student loan debt — have soared in recent years, leaving many to question the cost and value of some college and university degrees.

Into the fray comes a policy brief from the Rio Grande Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Albuquerque, that argues for establishing no-frills institutions of higher ed.

The brief’s author, William Patrick Leonard, calls establishing what’s called “The Lean College,” which would “fill a niche by primarily catering to returning adult students seeking a high quality low-cost face-to-face alternative to traditional higher education.”

The Lean College would emphasize teaching students skills employers want while cutting the bureaucracy and excessive costs seen in many institutions, Leonard writes.

Here’s a chart included in the brief:

rising cost of higher ed

While Leonard’s Lean College model could conceivably entail public or private dollars, he says it would resemble the best for-profit colleges.

The for-profit model, of course, sends many in the education community into fits of hyperventilation. But with so many college grads settling for jobs as baristas, the Lean College is certainly an idea worth considering.

“Reform is never easy,” Leonard writes in his conclusion, “but reform from within a taxpayer-financed government-operated oligopoly is next to impossible,”

Click here to read the entire eight-page policy brief.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski


Since 2010, Rob Nikolewski has covered New Mexico politics and investigated fraud, waste and abuse in government. He also writes an opinion column in the Sunday editions of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Rob joined New Mexico Watchdog after 20 years in television as a sports anchor and reporter. He anchored at MSNBC, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Reno and Boise, winning three regional Emmy awards along the way. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in public administration from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio.


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