Here's perhaps the only thing I like about the New Badger Partnership: it's got people talking about reforming public higher education in Wisconsin.
The downside is that the terms of the conversation are constrained by its leadership: right now it's a conversation about how a single, expensive institution can continue to have lots of money to do its work. The state needs to transform this into a broader conversation about creating a more sustainable model with which to provide public higher education to all state residents.
That requires far more than a few "flexibilities" or the creation of yet another governing board. There are fundamental issues we have neglected to tackle for far too long. And these issues make university administrators and faculty members very uncomfortable, for they strike at the core of the enterprise. The trick is how to "strike" at the core in a way that transforms it into something better, rather than something awful.
Here are big questions we must begin to consider and address if the overarching goal of sustaining a public higher education model in the state will be met:
(1) How can we best increase institutional performance on several metrics related to undergraduate and graduate education?
(2) How can we tie some of the funding for higher education to performance? (Right now we pay for "butts in seats" not completed credentials)
(3) How can we best assess duplicate or similar programs that could be meaningfully consolidated?
(4) Are there too many public higher education institutions in the state?
(5) Are all senior administrator positions adding value? What about all professors?
(6) Are all degree programs at each institution adding value?