Second candidate for dean of KU liberal arts proposes rethinking revenue

There are two options facing research universities in the wake of declining funding: One is to make do with less, and the other is an adaptive investment approach, said Kansas University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean candidate Mark P. Jones.

“What’s required is rethinking the university of the 21st century,” Jones told the crowd gathered to hear him talk Thursday in the Kansas Union.

Jones, a professor of political science and the Jamail chair in Latin American studies at Rice University, is the second of four candidates for dean of CLAS to give a public presentation on the theme “21st Century Challenges to Liberal Arts and Sciences (and how KU will address them).”

Jones said the new era of U.S. research universities is marked by five challenges:

• Dramatic decline in state support

• Decreasing or leveling in federal research funding

• Less robust enrollment growth

• Increasing enrollment competition, both nationally and internationally

• Increasing research competition from abroad

Jones said one way to respond to these challenges is “conserver mode,” which involves the same approaches universities used in the last century, in which institutions relied heavily on funding from the state and federal level. With the decline in such funding, this approach will lead to the inevitable decline of a university, he said.

With “enterprise mode,” universities can adapt to these changes, Jones said. One such adaption is a personalized investment approach that considers the return on investment for specific sources of revenue, Jones explained.

“You don’t ask for blanket money — you ask for things you can identify the return on investment,” Jones said, noting it’s important to be able to identify the public good KU can bring.

Similarly, the investment source’s ROI should be considered for other investment requests, be they for a grant from a foundation, funding for a project from a corporation, an individual donor endowing a professorship, or a student paying more tuition, Jones said.

Another route Jones identified to increase support was generating more tuition revenue. Enrollment can be increased by expanding the bachelor’s and master’s programs on campus, expanding master’s programs online and increasing international undergraduate enrollment, Jones said.

“I think more international undergraduates add to the diversity on campus in terms of different ways of looking at things, and add to the revenue stream,” he said.

On increasing research, one approach involves more endowed professorships, which can retain quality faculty and create the building blocks of research groups, Jones said.

Jones joined the faculty at Rice in 2007 and previously taught at the University of Houston, Michigan State University, University of Notre Dame and several schools in South America. Jones earned his doctorate in political science in 1994 from the University of Michigan. Jones’ research focuses on the effects of electoral laws and other political institutions on governance, representation and voting.

The new CLAS dean will replace Danny Anderson, who left KU to become president of Trinity University in San Antonio.

Candidate Walter Hawthorne, professor and chairman of the Department of History at Michigan State University, visited campus Monday.

The final two candidates, whom KU has not yet named, are scheduled to speak Wednesday and Sept. 4 at the Kansas Union.