The Provocative Ideas of "Publius Audax"


Pajamas Media have published a series of posts on higher education in Texas, authored by “Publius Audax”, a pseudonym for a professor at an undisclosed state university. Readers of this blog might be interested in what Publius has to say. In “Needed Reforms for Public Higher Education in Texas (and Elsewhere)”, Publius advocates what he calls the “Entrepreneurial Professor” model. In essence, it puts both departments and individual professors in competition with one another for students, tying professors’ pay to numbers of undergraduate students taught, while fighting grade inflation with similar incentives. In addition, Publius recommends taking advantage of Texas’s Tuition Equalization grants, which are in effect vouchers for private colleges. These have existed since the 1980’s but have been perpetually under-funded. By fully funding the TEG’s, Texas could level the playing field. Publius’s other recommendation pushes in a different direction. He proposes a $10K B.A., inspired by Gov. Perry’s State of the State address, exploiting Texas’s economies of scale to create web-based resources for 400 standardized courses. Each state university could offer the courses inexpensively ($250 per course), due to low marginal costs per student. Finally, Publius recommends skepticism about the so-called “accountability” movement within higher education officialdom. The Coordinating Board is pushing a plan designed to reward state universities for higher graduation rates. As Publius points out, this seems to confuse means and ends and threatens to accelerate the current race to the bottom to lower standards.

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