I watched an episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" called "Is College Still Worth It?"

In there the point was made, with ample evidence, that universities are increasingly resembling businesses with dire consequences for the professors. The amount of tenure-track professors is steadily declining while the amount of low-paid, adjunct professors, who are seemingly abused by the institution, is increasing.

I am a graduate student in mathematics and I am getting close to finishing my degree. It was always my dream and intention to go into academia and contribute original research to the fields I am interested in: Differential Geometry and Mathematical Physics.

After watching this episode and witnessing for myself what being in academia is like, I am actually considering other options. Now, my question is, how many other academics have seen and are upset by the way academia is going in terms of being run like a business? How are you handling it? Or do you think it's not really a big deal? Any advice for someone who wants to do pure math research for a living but doesn't want to be tied to a university? Or are my options rather limited?

As brought up in a comment, this show and my experience are referring to US universities but I am interested in hearing anyone's perspective on it. I can imagine similar situations might be faced by academics in other countries.

I would like to emphasize what I see as the important parts of this question. People are mainly addressing the title, which is only part of the story. How are you handling this situation? How is effecting your work/life? Are you okay with this, as a professor/instructor/person in academia?

Here is an article that nicely describes what I am talking about with a good amount of evidence. I am sure there are counter-viewpoints. I am posting this to clarify that I am not talking about universities simply covering their costs: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/156375

  • 17
    Haven't seen the show, but I suppose it is US specific? Is your question restricted to the US?
    – GoodDeeds
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:32
  • 38
    In Australia, universities are run like a business. The consequence is, when international students disappear, we are screwed. Another consequence is, we have to accept weak students to make up the budget. This means we may need to lower education quality to ensure these 'customers' do not fail. Otherwise, they (or $) walk to another university with a lower standard. There are many degrees setup to attract students with the sole purpose of shoring up the budget. Aug 7, 2020 at 19:49
  • 16
    Also, a university can be influenced or bought if it is run like a business. E.g., a rich organization or country can give $ to push its agenda, or threaten to remove said $ or students to bend a university to its will. Academic freedom pretty much goes down the drain. Aug 7, 2020 at 19:53
  • 7
    For Germany the answer is probably "less than in the US, more than 50 years ago."
    – o.m.
    Aug 8, 2020 at 16:35
  • 6
    Required reading: Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters Aug 9, 2020 at 16:21

7 Answers 7


I'm not going to answer your career questions, but just the title whether universities are run like businesses:

Over the past 20 years (with longer roots), universities have largely been stripped of the substantial state contributions that have financed operations before then. It used to be the fact that states funded the majority of university expenditures because (i) that provided an education for the young people of the state at a small cost, and (ii) the research done at universities translated into state-of-the-art knowledge in the state that led to highly educated students, start-up companies, companies that want to have offices in the state because they needed that knowledge, etc. In return for these state contributions, universities were run in a manner that had the welfare of the state as its top concern -- which includes a focus on education and research. Both provided great flexibility to faculty as long as they reasonably looked towards the bigger goals.

But states no longer provide that money for a variety of mostly political reasons: For example, my own university now receives less than 10% of its budget from the state of Colorado. This comes with consequences:

  • We rely on student tuition for much more substantial part of our revenue, and so keeping students happy is an important consideration (whether they deserve it or not).
  • We rely on out-of-state student tuition to a much larger degree because the out-of-state tuition rate is not subject to political pressure that universities are still subject to despite the fact that the state no longer provides a substantial part of the budget. To attract out-of-state students, they need to be treated like the customers of a business.
  • We rely on Federal and private research dollars much more than we used to. There is substantially greater pressure on faculty to bring in these research dollars than there used to be.

So when people say "universities are run like businesses today", what they really mean in some sense is that there is greater pressure on paying attention to students ("customers") and to go after research grants than there used to be. One can complain about that all day long, but the reality is that that is in large parts a function of how the income sources of universities have shifted, and what the expectations of those who provide this income are today (students, research funders: wanting to get a good education/research product for their money) in comparison to what they were 20 years ago (states: wanting to benefit the welfare of the state's population). The issue that professors complain about is that the expectations that come with these new sources of revenue are not aligned with what faculty like to do: research and teach.

All of this is not to say that there aren't other issues that also fall under the "operate like a business" category and that are much less driven by external factors. Among these are administrator salaries, for example, and I think that for that there really is no good reason why they should be as high as they are.

  • 1
    Since this is about money, recall both state and private universities may be considered as a non-for profit (and tax free), for example at federal level (IRS 501(c)(3)). Their endowments may be managed by a subsidiary with public financial reports. Harvard University for example (finance.harvard.edu/annual-report) benefits from Harvard Management Corporation (hmc.harvard.edu) which in turn often acts like a corporation (wsj.com/articles/…, thecrimson.com/article/2020/2/27/hmc-buys-uber).
    – Buttonwood
    Aug 8, 2020 at 10:26
  • 2
    I like your point that this is partly perception of universities' responses to changes in funding sources. "universities have largely been stripped of the substantial state contributions that have financed operations before then" ... but even those only came in about a century ago. It's always been the case that organisations have had to balance outgoings against income - there's nothing special about universities that stops them going bankrupt, and at least in the UK there have been worries about that stemming from the Covid pandemic.
    – Lou Knee
    Aug 9, 2020 at 16:17
  • 3
    colorado.edu/bfp/funding-overview/current-funds-budget 2009/10 Student fees $427.3 million Fed. grants $197.3 million State grants $9.596 million 2019/20 Student fees $895.3 million Fed. grants $325.6 million State grants $4.401 million At Boulder, in the last 10 years, state grants have gone from a small fraction to a smaller fraction, and are irrelevant to student fees and federal grants. Federal grants have grown, but not as much as tuition. Tuition and fees have doubled in 10 years, while grants have risen about 50%. I think your numbers have problems.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 9, 2020 at 19:12
  • 4
    To understand this, you need to look at what "student support" has done. No "business" behaving entity could double their prices in 10 years, still have full classrooms, and also cry poor.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 9, 2020 at 19:18
  • 2
    @puppetsock: I really don't want to be goaded into a political discussion here. But I do take objection to you "double their prices in 10 years" statement: The cost of education has actually gone up rather slowly over the last 30 years -- I don't recall the exact number, but it's in the 3-5% range per year. The difference is that the state paid a substantial fraction, and now no longer does. As a consequence, the cost to students has gone up very substantially: They used to pay 1/3 or less of the cost of their education, and now it's 2/3 or more. Aug 9, 2020 at 23:36

In Sweden, non-government funding of universities is minor — whereas there is pressure to get external research grants, and some tuition fees (but only for students from non-EU countries), these factors haven't had much effect on what sort of courses are offered or what academic criteria are set. There is an ongoing discussion about worry that the general quality is slipping, but that is then rather tied to the students apparently starting university with less knowledge than they used to have. However despite those factors being mostly absent that in the US seems to drive a transformation of universities to operate more like a business, I would say I see also Swedish universities are showing signs of the same. Maybe it's the zeitgeist.

One way in which things have changed concern the basic organisatorial structure. It used to be that not only the universities, but also the individual departments within a university, had a large degree of autonomy: while there was a department head that served as executive, many formal decisions (including, as I recall it, electing the department head) were rather taken in the department board, which was elected by the department staff (in a small enough department, the board would be the department staff). This sort of pattern was then repeated for two more levels, ending at the university as a whole; technically the vice-chancellor was appionted by the government (since most Swedish universitities are formally government agencies), but in practice a local election of vice-chancellor would merely be confirmed by the government.

For the last decade or so however, fashions have changed to rather organise universities in a more businesslike "line organisation", which at least in my eyes looks almost feudal: the department head is vassal to the dean of school and the dean of school is vassal to the vice-chancellor, each tasked with delivering enough students to keep the economy afloat. Some of the internal democratic structures remain, but they have been made rather harmless. It is a striking bit of newspeak that the reform which made this possible was called the "autonomy reform" — it mostly meant that the University Board (comprised mostly of career officials and random professional board members, not accountable to anyone) and vice-chancellor could do whatever they want, without worrying about the faculty that had previously enjoyed practical autonomy. All of course with the best intentions.

Another way in which this trend shows is in the Univerity websites. It used to be (1990's, early 00's) that every department had its own webserver (or shared part of the webserver of a neighbouring department), where the computer-literate professors could publish whatever they liked: research, teaching materials, popular science, etc. Then (circa 2010) there came a decree that all University webpages had to be served from the common Content Management System, leading to significant migration overhead and loss of content that was too hard to migrate, but all professors could still publish material on the university web. However as of last year, when the university switched CMS, the policy has changed again: only staff employed as Communicators are allowed to publish material, and they generally prefer not to. In particular, the new web policy states that university departments should not on the web publish what sort of research they do, since that counts as "assisting other parties in their monitoring of progress", which is not what the university web is for! I consider this a sign of the University communication department having switched from an academic perspective, where freedom of information is a primary value, to a business perspective where it is rather control of information that is king.

  • 11
    The transition from democratic, bottom-up governance to more corporate structures is also a something that happened in the UK. I believe Oxford and Cambridge are now the only UK universities where the university senate has any power (and even there, that power has been diluted). Aug 8, 2020 at 13:09
  • 5
    Wow this is a really interesting comment. It is sad to hear that the universities are becoming less democratic. Amidst Grad student protests over low pay and high workloads, higher than ever tuition rates, the pandemic, millionaire administrators on one-hand and starving adjuncts on the other hand, I often wonder where our democratic spirit is. None of this seems democratic at all. Even though what you say is concerning, maybe I should apply for positions in Sweden!
    – user128124
    Aug 8, 2020 at 22:34
  • out of curiosity: are departments in Sweden run on a full-cost-accounting model? Aug 9, 2020 at 16:16
  • @pictorexcrucia It sounds very democratic if you consider that not everyone votes Aug 10, 2020 at 13:47
  • 2
    since that counts as "assisting other parties in their monitoring of progress" - what a disaster... Aug 10, 2020 at 13:51

In the US, the job market is so terrible right now that it most likely will not be your choice. I would not be surprised if the number of tenure-track hires in pure mathematics in research universities in the US over the next year can be counted on my fingers. While the current situation is due to COVID-19, there is not much or a reason to expect the situation to become an order of magnitude better. I believe my department has hired its last ever tenure-track(*) pure mathematician. With such a small number of hires, the only hires will be mathematicians who are at least longshot Fields Medal candidates.

This has very little to do with running like a business. Universities simply do not have enough funding at the moment. No one is willing to pay for basic research. (Honestly - if someone was purely interested in their material well-being, why would they ever pay anyone else to spend time thinking about differential geometry?)

This does not affect people who already have tenure-track or tenured positions very much, because universities are very reluctant to break the (sometimes implicit) agreements they have made with their employees. At worst we are expected to have more students in our classes than we can actually teach and give passing grades to students who try hard, but have inadequate preparation to learn the material (with the assistance we can give them given class sizes) in our courses.

(*) Our university may at some point reinstate a tenure track for 100%-teaching (or 80%-teaching/20%-service) positions; for the purposes of this answer, I'm not counting such positions (or other similar positions at other universities) as "tenure-track positions".

  • 3
    " I believe my department has hired its last ever tenure-track(*) pure mathematician." Wow that's really sad... My circle of friends and acquaintances who are mostly research-oriented mathematicians seem to be in a much better position than yours. I know the job market is tough but I do think that you are exaggerating a bit. When the economy recovers from Covid (let's say 4 years from now), getting a decent job as a non-fields medalist should be very very hard but not impossible. We shouldn't really argue about it without actual numbers, however.
    – user128124
    Aug 8, 2020 at 22:38
  • @pictorexcrucia If you have a circle of pure mathematician friends around PhD age who are getting tenure-track research jobs, well...You must be living in a whole different world. It does look to me like Alexander's claim was that this year only Fields Medal types have any chance at a job at a research university, not that that will now be a permanent state of affairs. But if, as Alexander says, even jobs at regional R1-class universities are now drying up completely...It was already incredibly difficult to get such a job pre-COVID. I can't even imagine what the market will be like after. Aug 9, 2020 at 19:00
  • @Kevin Arlin. I didn't say they were around PhD age! Many of them are much older and did a post doc (or sometimes 4) before getting a tenure track job. Nonetheless they didn't win a fields medal. Of course things are worse now due to Covid. We can only hope it improves.
    – user128124
    Aug 10, 2020 at 1:37
  • 6
    @pictorexcrucia: From what I have heard from people of various ages, the history of the job market in the last 50 years has been that, after every crisis, the new normal is noticeably worse (for job seekers) than the old normal. Also, you can look at the philosophy or literature or history job markets - each about 20-30 years "ahead" of pure math - for comparison. Aug 10, 2020 at 2:30
  • 4
    @pictorexcrucia It is really incomprehensible that many of us became convinced that moving to at least five different cities, often on 2-3 continents, for consecutively no pay, poverty wages, a slim salary, and finally a good salary at age 33-40 constitutes “doing better” than anybody, or any semblance of a career. And remember, that was before. It will likely improve somewhat, but it’s irresponsible to imagine it’ll go back to “normal”, as terrible as normal already was. Aug 10, 2020 at 6:35

Where I'm from (Ontario, Canada), our current provincial government has implemented something of an outcomes-based evaluation of funding for university programs. This basically translates into "how many people get jobs once they graduate from your program", although it is more nuanced.

In some sense this is frustrating and anti-academic, because the idea of the academy as a free and open place of inquiry is strong and, in a sense, important. However, in another sense it is reasonable - taxpayers pay a substantial amount to universities, and many of those taxpayers see university education as both an expectation (for their children) and a route to employment. There are some of course who feel that learning is important for its own sake, but the current societal winds are blowing in the direction of "higher education is primarily there to get better jobs".

However, and it's a big however, this is not an incompatible worldview with the idea of the academy as a place of free inquiry. Instead, it adds an additional responsibility on academics to remember the needs of their students.

Long ago, a degree of any sort was a kind of ticket to a better job. That is not the case anymore, since many more people are getting degrees. In many, but not all, industries, it is an expectation that someone have a relevant degree, and then they'll start looking at your other qualifications and experience. Students looking for careers in these fields therefore need to go and get degrees that prepare them for those fields. Thus, they have a need, that their education be high quality, relevant, and current.

In addition, research funds are easier to get if they are tied either to a project that trains people to be more qualified than they are ("Highly Qualified Personnel", or "HQP", in the lingo of our national science/engineering funding council) or has direct, industrial or societal relevance. Practically, this means that it is far easier to get lots of funding in engineering than philosophy.

Finally, we are simply churning out a LOT of PhDs. Seriously, a lot. We are creating more PhDs than there ever were academic positions. I can only find a source for the US, but since 2000 the number of people with PhDs has doubled. Doubled! The number of academic institutions has...not...and so yes, there are a lot of PhDs who simply will never be employed in a university.

So all of this means that there is a growing sense of "justify your existence" in academia that may not have existed before. It also means that some fields have a lot of work to do to convince people that their existence is justified, and this is not fair to those fields. Others, like engineering, do not have this problem because for the most part engineers are employed and society values them. This, too, is not really fair, since it give some programs an easier time than others.

Now, this doesn't mean that academia is a factory. Fundamental and inquiry-based research can and does happen. It just can't be the only thing you do. Eventually, you need to go to the people funding you and explain what you've done with their money. You need to at least keep in mind that they may not be interested in what you are, and that you do have an obligation to give them some kind of return on their investment.

  • 1
    This was a relatively positive answer imo. It seems like in Ontario, in your experience, the problem is more of an over supply of PhD's or a new expectation that people get degrees to get "normal" jobs than the administrators being downright greedy.
    – user128124
    Aug 10, 2020 at 18:30
  • 2
    Yes. Basically, I can't lament the attitudes of people who pay my salary - if the public wants me to gear my teaching towards job based, customer-focused stuff, I need to think about why they might want that and what my obligations are to them. I can't just do whatever I want just because now I'm in a university. That isn't to say that it's ALL positive, and I respect and treasure inquiry-based research, but I do understand the needs Aug 10, 2020 at 18:32

It does not just effect the academic staff as support staff are cut.

Workshops are closed and all the knowledge of how to make instrument/jigs is lost. Students could just go and discuss a job with a technician; they now have to create CAD drawings and get them made outside. The engineering company has no idea if they will work or not they just make to the drawings. There is nobody to tweek or modify instruments to re purpose them etc. If something goes wrong with an instrument who is going to fix it as a lot are bespoke?

Speaking from experience!

  • 1
    It's not clear to me how this answers the question asked.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 9, 2020 at 18:48
  • 5
    @BryanKrause It does answer the question "what are the consequences of universities rationalizing expenses? How is effecting your work/life?", in my view. Aug 9, 2020 at 19:07

No, universities are not operating more like businesses. They are operating more like farmers of tax money.

A business will seek to provide a good or service that its customers want. A good business will seek to provide a good or service that its customers want, and that is also good for them. Current universities are doing something very different.

Consider the thesis of this book. The Economic Laws of Scientific Research

His claim (backed up with huge swathes of data and analysis) is this. If you get government out of the business of education, universities will end up with more money, and less restraints. Yes yes, the crowd here that think you can only get money from government grants is outraged.

Outrage is not an argument. Let me explain the book.

Consider Fred's Transistor Company (FTC). They want some research done on some new semi-conductor. But they don't want to buy their own labs. So they go to the local physics department and ask them. And FTC has to find out what motivates professors.

And that comes under the heading "academic freedom." Part of that is money, but by no means all. It has aspects such as the right to publish your work, the right to read other people's work, the right to have or be a visiting speaker or researcher. The right to get some post-docs in, or research associates. The right to visit some place with special resources or facilities. Like special labs or libraries or archives or research sites, etc. And the right to have a comfortable university with various facilities like poetry readings and art and music and philosophy discussions, and so on. And a good library on campus. And so on and so forth, all the things that make up a university life, which would require many thousands of words to cover even a small fraction.

So FTC negotiates with the physics department. And the science faculty. And the various powers-that-be at the university. And they drop a stack of cash on the physics department, and another stack on the university leadership.

The only restraint is, they want time to make commercial use of the research before it is published in full. After that, they literally do not care what the university does with the money. They can give it to whatever part or portion of the university, for whatever purpose, the university cares to apply. University related funding decisions made internally to the university.

Consider this applied across the uni. This company wants some research on its new thing to keep birds out of airplane flight paths and maybe out of wind turbines. This company wants to know if this chemical is safe to put in toothpaste. And so on, and so forth. They would all like to get their research done without having to buy their own labs.

Then consider the area of specialty training. This company needs its staff to learn French to do business in Canada. This company needs some staff to learn to recognize artifacts of various types because they deal in antiquities. This company needs staff trained in how to write an environmental report. This company needs staff trained in how to use the latest equipment in forestry. And so on.

What is the result? Each $2 of government money the university gets removes $3 of private money. And, government money comes with huge sheaves of restraints and restrictions and regulations and paper work and promises and constraints. From "give your research to this three-letter-agency for nothing" to "hire this guy we say needs a job" to "charge students this much tuition, no more or less" to "you can only do this kind of research or no grant for you" to "you must have this many books in your library, this big a sports center, this many faculty-to-students" and so on and so on.

What is the result of taking government money? The need for ever more administrators to deal with the constraints placed by government money. And far less money than private grants would have provided.

Why would a university operate this way? It is clearly bad for students, bad for profs, bad for research, and bad for society at large.

It is good for administrators. And the admin run the unies. "Pournelle's iron law of bureaucracy" tells us why that is happening.

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely..

Universities are not operating as businesses. They are operating as cronies of various government agencies and politicians. Admin and government feed and help each other. Governments insist only universities can prepare people for a career, then they prop up the price, then they provide subsidies to pay for the inflated price. Then the admin squashes any dissent within the university, and scares off any private money that might somehow make it in the door. As I mentioned in a comment under another answer, tuition has doubled in ten years. Classes are still full. And grants have gone up 50%. Yet the universities cry poor. That's because steadily more-and-more of the incoming cash is used to feed the admin and satisfy the government-imposed constraints.

A final quote from the cite behind that word admin

Figure 3 clearly shows a rather steep decrease in the number of students per administrator over the past 15 years in both SAIS and NAIS schools. For NAIS schools, there were 41.1 students for every administrator in 2001-2002. By 2016-2017, the number of students per administrator lowered to 27. This represents a 53% difference. For SAIS schools, the number of students per administrator was 59 in 2001-2002, by 2016-2017 the number dropped to 39. This represents a 60% difference.

Universities have become places where administrators spend tax money and government subsidized tuition money. They are by no means businesses. They are barely still universities.

==== Note added to respond to comments: Why would FTC fund stuff not related to their transistor? I already explained that. They pay the uni for the right to work with the physics department. Or the biology department if it's biology research, or the engineering department if it's engineering research. Or the languages faculty if it's specialty language training. And so on.

So if you are worried that you couldn't get funding from your uni, even if your uni had 50 percent more money, then you are admitting your fellow professors don't evaluate your work as worth funding.

  • 8
    Part of this argument is not convincing because it equates university dollars with research dollars, and in particular, industry research dollars. What company will fund research into questions of social justice or the influence of fake news? Or are we do ignore such questions? Aug 9, 2020 at 21:40
  • 3
    While this is an interesting take, and I will take a look at the book, I think one of the luxuries advanced societies like ours should be able to afford is research in to things that are purely theoretical. This is one of the qualities of ancient Greece that made it impressive. What you describe here as a healthy business-university does not really leave much room for that unless I am misunderstanding something.
    – user128124
    Aug 10, 2020 at 1:43
  • 6
    There's nuggets of truth in here; but this much overstates the idea that companies are just going to start funding universities to do what they want, and professors will just say "OK." First of all, many fields, there will be no private funding, and second, many professors do not want to take industry dollars to do what their funder wants. Especially the line: you can only do this kind of research or no grant for you. Without the rest of the paragraph, I would have thought this referred to private grants. Aug 10, 2020 at 2:57
  • 7
    Why would your FTC go to a University - with its extra overheads relating to teaching, etc. - rather than an electronic/semiconductor CRO which is already geared up to their needs regarding IPR and commercial use? And many CROs already are private businesses.
    – Lou Knee
    Aug 10, 2020 at 9:52
  • 3
    And FTC definately isn't going to fund 100 projects studying weird bacteria, 1 of which, 30 years later, completely revolutionizes the way a completely different field operates. Aug 10, 2020 at 13:14

Universities in the U.S.A. routinely encourage vast numbers of students to take calculus, while knowing that the students lack the prerequisite knowledge. Specifically, typical students in first-year calculus have never suspected that mathematics is a subject in which, while learning it, every day one works on understanding why things are as they are, rather than just memorizing dogmas. Never suspected. That is the central lesson of the prerequisite courses. Students have merely learned algorithms and don't suspect there's anything to math besides that. This includes those who have perfect grades in the prerequisites.

Professors teaching such courses are as naive as the students: They explain students deficiencies by saying they are deficiencies of natural ability rather than that the incentive structure is set up in a way that makes that outcome predictable. Teaching that kind of material to students whose reason for being there is not that they want to understand the material, but rather than they either want to get good grades to impress employers or that they want to put requirements behind them, must inevitably have that effect. Far from creating a more enlightened populace, such teaching spreads gross falsehoods.

Why is this done? Because it brings in tuition money. Some administrators encourage this practice only for that reason. They are prostitutes. It's amazing how oblivious math professors are to these facts. Professors and students endowed with high degrees of intelligence become stupid in order to game the system. Profoundly so.

One of the worst things about this is that there is an immense amount one could teach such students about mathematics instead of spending all this time, effort, and money on such phony courses.

  • In some sense I agree with this. But at the same time I don't think I can say a single professor or graduate student at my university holds the philosophy that "students deficiencies ... are deficiencies of natural ability rather than that the incentive structure is set up in a way that makes that outcome predictable." Having just finished teaching my first calc three course, I certainly hope they actually learned something whether they wanted to or not. I'm (clearly) not oblivious to the university's phony goals but I do have integrity as an instructor.
    – user128124
    Aug 11, 2020 at 2:38
  • I genuinely believe students usually get bad grades because they are either distracted or didn't work hard enough. Some of them don't have the background material, but that is more rare. Nonetheless none of these three causes have anything to do with their natural ability.
    – user128124
    Aug 11, 2020 at 2:41
  • @pictorexcrucia : You write of the reasons why some students get bad grades, but what about those who work hard and follow instructions and get perfect grades without learning to understand the subject matter? Don't you see that that is why I was writing about? Aug 11, 2020 at 4:23
  • 1
    The things you describe exist. They are certainly not "operating like a business." The motivations arise from the source funding being more and more from government subsidies. Universities are not motivated by making their students successful. They are motivated by getting their students to take out loans and pay the money to the uni. Loans that any sensible bank manager would never give without government backing. And no sensible business would push their customers into because of the hit on their reputation.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 11, 2020 at 19:57
  • 1
    To "operate like a business" is not to greedily gobble up every possible dollar available. Not if you want to stay in business longer than the time it takes a student to fail to get a job after graduating. The current student debt crisis could easily wind up bankrupting many universities. If they operated like businesses, that is. But they don't. They operate like tax farmers.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 11, 2020 at 19:59