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Can Public Research Universities Compete?


  • Brint, Steven


Many leaders of public research universities worry about falling behind private research universities at a time when private university finances have improved dramatically and state support for higher education has declined. In this paper, I provide grounds for a more optimistic view of the competitive position of public research universities. I develop two "business models" for higher education: the public research university model is based on high volume of enrollments and low cost per student, while the private university model is based on low volume and high cost. I show that the private model, at its best, generates a high proportion of future leaders, stronger educational reputations, and leads to the accumulation of more institutional wealth. However, the public model remains viable and successful, principally because it typically generates larger faculties. The total societal contribution of public research universities, as measured by human capital development and research publication, is greater than that of private universities.

Suggested Citation

  • Brint, Steven, 2006. "Can Public Research Universities Compete?," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt7pb373fw, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:cshedu:qt7pb373fw

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1996. "Buying the Best: Cost Escalation in Elite Higher Education," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot96-1.
    2. James Monks & Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1999. "The Impact of US News and World Report College Rankings on Admission Outcomes and Pricing Decisions at Selective Private Institutions," NBER Working Papers 7227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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