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

By   /   November 6, 2013  /   News  /   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


Rob is the National Energy Correspondent for Watchdog.org. Rob is an Emmy-winning news anchor who has held many prominent positions in the journalism field for over 10 years working for MSNBC, Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh and several local television stations. He served as the bureau chief for New Mexico Watchdog and Capitol Report New Mexico for four years. Rob can be reached on Twitter at @NMWatchdog or by email at rnikolewski@watchdog.org