Not Just Any Old Resignation

Miller

Edward D. Miller

Edward D. Miller, former CEO of research powerhouse Johns Hopkins Medicine, will resign from the University of Virginia Board of Visitors effective June 30 — a year early. In an interview with the Daily Progress, he cited his frustration with rising tuition and falling research grants.

“I just felt there were issues I’d been advocating for that I didn’t think were getting traction,” Miller said. “I’d worked at it for four years and I wasn’t having much of an impact.”

Miller, a former UVa faculty member, said he disagreed with recent tuition increases, suggesting that the university should focus on cutting costs instead of raising tuition. “It’s hard for me to understand how you can continue to increase the rate of tuition [faster than] the rate of inflation year after year,” he said in comments that applied to higher education as a whole, not just UVa. “What business can survive that except colleges?”

In particular, Miller was dissatisfied with the way the university implemented its most recent, 11% tuition hike for new students. The plan was introduced and passed on the same day, with no outlet for public comment. “I had a feeling that the board wasn’t given an adequate amount of time to digest this information. … I had no idea what the plan was going to be until the day of the meeting. I was surprised it was done so quickly, without more discussion.”

Tuition increases may be tied to falling research revenues, Miller said  — exactly the issue that Bacon’s Rebellion raised last month in “UVa’s Silent Crisis.” If the university maintains the same number of faculty members doing research, but they’re bringing in less research funding, he said, the money has to come from somewhere else.

Miller, who knows something about what it takes to to build a world-class research program — Johns Hopkins ranks No. 1 in the country for R&D spending — said the UVa board needs to hear from top researchers what it takes to bring in grants. The UVa administration, he told the Daily Progress, also needs to identify which faculty members are not attracting their share of research funding.

Bacon’s bottom line: Make no mistake, Miller’s resignation is a major loss for UVa governance. Miller was not some know-nothing political appointee. As a former faculty member, he knows the university well. As CEO of the world’s most successful research university, he understands what it takes to grow R&D funding. His loss of expertise will be missed — well, maybe it won’t be missed, because it appears that no one was listening to him. But his loss should be missed. Submitting his resignation a year early and his willingness to go public with some of his concerns should be especially disturbing to those who worry where UVa is heading.

The university’s new slogan is “Affordable Excellence.” If the current direction isn’t soon reversed, that will have to be revised to “Unaffordable Mediocrity.”

— JAB

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15 responses to “Not Just Any Old Resignation

  1. This is huge hit, and so ironic. While some at UVA tout that the school is in a class with Duke & Georgetown, it has now completely squandered the opportunity to benefit from a world-class superstar. This, will UVA loses $90M in research funding and drifts from having any medical specialty ranked in the top 20. For the full version of Miller’s rationale, read this and weep: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/04/13/medical-executive-quits-u-va-governing-board-blasts-administration-on-way-out/?tid=hybrid_linearcol_1_na

    • from your referenced article:

      ” U-Va. officials said research funding fell after 2010 for several reasons, including the end of federal stimulus spending and the beginning of the federal budget cuts known as sequestration.”

      so a question for those here who hew to fiscal conservative principles:

      should the Federal and State govt be using taxpayer dollars to fund research at UVA?

      no weaseling now. no equivocation. just plain honest responses..

      and then a second question –

      one would presume that when the Feds give a research grant – that it’s paying for the employee and non-employee costs of carrying out the grant.

      where is the world of reasonableness – should we treat this money as a subsidy for tuition?

      It’s time to get down to brass tacks on these things and stop pussyfooting around…

      what in the dooda is the Federal govt doing when it subsidizes higher Ed?

      what is the purpose of doing it and where is that ROI that Jim Bacon is always asking about?

      • This one is easy. First, Dr. Miller is talking about 2 separate trends: the increase of cost enroll and the reduction of research funding. The research funding wouldn’t matter if this were not a research univ., though it could still have a rising cost problem.

        Second, your quote “U-Va. officials said…” UVA officials have a tendency to blame all of their shortcomings on something else (declining state support, declining fed grants). What they say is not the whole story. There is a bunch (I know this is not a mathematical term) of private capital that funds research, this is how most biotech research is done. If any source is handing out money for any research, I want the flagship univ to have its hand out and be first in line. The pie in finite, and UVA is been letting its piece get smaller and smaller.

        Research funding is not fungible to other ends, but there are many students who do part-time research. When the grants do not come, they lose that income. Also, imagine how tough it is to finance a lab that has an unknown future? On/off cycles do not portent good research. I’m sure Dr. Miller could outline this much more thoroughly but apparently he’s stopped wasting his breath.

        • well.. what about these folks who say that scientists lie and conspire so they can get more govt grants?

          seriously? I hear that more and more..even here in BR..

    • Alarm bells should be going off somewhere. Let’s get very quiet and see if we can hear them……….Sorry, I just hear silence.

  2. I would continue to say this – taxpayer funding of higher Ed should be limited to the basic median tuition cost and nothing more and it should be tied to a degree that has demand in the marketplace.

    We have moved to a mindset where every kid is entitled to any/all direction they want to take in College – all of it subsidized by taxpayers – rather than help with a basic degree and letting the kid and parents pay the rest.

    We should never try to taxpayer-fund the goal of each kid and parent no more than we should subsidize car loans or mortgages .. we have a FAIL.

    Second – we have heard all this stuff recently about how Scientists are lying so they can get more grants so which is it?

    Should we be using taxpayer money from College grants or not?

    The resignation is duly noted and it sounds like he’s more in the Dragas camp than the Sullivan camp but not this Gov nor the prior Gov ever had the courage to call out UVA even as this guy calls out ethics.. and Mr. Howell and company are yammering about how we cannot afford the Medicaid Expansion.

    What you can say is this – too many of us are not willing to give us the benefits we get from the status quo but we are sure willing to complain about other costs… we KNOW what the colleges are doing – but we – ourselves – are too feckless to demand change from our elected. I predict not one elected in Va cares one whit about this resignation and that not one candidate will run – saying they are going to rein in higher ED subsidies.

    We wring our hands about “entitlements” for the undeserving poor while we ignore the entitlements for those who go to UVA ….

  3. just to keep things factual : average college tuition costs nationwide:

    from the College Board:

    ” Average Tuition and Fees and Room and Board in 2014 Dollars, 2004-05 to 2014-15″

    year tuition one year change
    2005 $6,448 —
    2006 $6,696 3.8%
    2007 $6,795 1.5%
    2008 $7,081 4.2%
    2009 $7,148 0.9%
    2010 $7,825 9.5%
    2011 $8,337 6.5%
    2012 $8,728 4.7%
    2013 $8,991 3.0%
    2014 $9,062 0.8%
    2015 $9,139 0.8%

    UVA next year = $14,468

    Tuition at SUNY – the state University of New York: Tuition
    $6,170 +1412 student fees = (does not include room & board, books, etc).

    University of Ohio – 5,268
    University of NC – 4167
    University of Tenn -$5,938

  4. Larry, I’m open to a discussion of moving to a voucher system, where a high school graduate who is prepared for college gets X amount of dollars per year for four years, to apply to any Virginia school. We do that now for Virginia students attending private 4-year institutions and call it the Tuition Assistance Grant, paying about $3,100 per year. It is a flat amount whether you are going to Washington and Lee or Ferrum, so the percentage of the cost covered varies. The model could move to the publics.

    As to which degrees have demand in the marketplace, I guess a lowly liberal arts major like myself would just be out of luck, huh? Not much demand for religion majors. It’s not even the degree I’d recommend for seminary. No, let’s leave that to the students as they find their way in the world. English majors and anthro majors might surprise you. It isn’t the course content but the ability to think and write and extrapolate that matter.

    If you cannot see the tremendous ROI in Virginia’s higher education institutions, even now with their bureaucratic bloat, luxury accomodations and political correctness disease (PCD), they you don’t know what ROI is. Tech, UVA and William and Mary are world economic and intellectual assets, and VCU, Mason and Madison are rising fast. The smaller schools, with their individual strengths, add choice and diversity. A student willing to work can get a great education at any or all of them. They built our past, our present, and we need them to build our future. If war is too important to be left to generals, and it is, then higher education is too important to be left to the small and secretive networks of donors, legislators and highly-compensated administrators who are quietly taking some of these schools away from their public missions.

    And Larry, with your complaints that the taxpayers should not be subsidizing these schools, you are playing into their hands. You are making it easier for those who want to, to take these schools private.

    • Steve – I’d go along.. no I support a voucher system – with supplements for occupations in demand.

      how’s that?

      as far as ROI – I do not think any/all tax-funded higher Ed is a legitimate investment for the State – some of it is more for the student and parents like courses in High School.

      If there really is a legitimate ROI – then why do we need subsidized loans?

      my problem goes back to the voucher – every kid should get a basic voucher to spend as they please for higher Ed and if they can get more for their money – fine – but taxpayers should not be paying for the higher-priced spread .

      you say liberal arts – fine.

      but would you differentiate on a cost-to-taxpayers basis one from UVA vs one from a perfectly good but lower priced College?

      what’s the difference in the ROI between a liberal arts at UVA and one at JMU or CNU?

      why don’t we cap the amount of aid – and let students/parents decide like they would when trying to afford a car for the student?

      why are we taxpayers paying for Cadillac educations when a Chevy is what we can afford?

    • to that – I would say – provide subsidies and funding for the lowest level – tuition and books only. Let the parents and the student be responsible for room and board.

      this is ridiculous.

      the whole idea of taxpayers supporting education has become perverted.

      taxpayers HELP deserving students get a degree but the student and parents are also responsible.

      we’ve gotten to a situation where the mindset is that any/all costs are fair game for taxpayers -.. and the irony of this – is that we bitch and complain about Head Start and Title 1 costs for K-12..economically disadvantaged.

      we subsidize higher tier kids and we resent having to pay for the lower tier so those in K-12 might actually have a legitimate opportunity to go to a modest community college.

      we”re screwed up ..

  5. I think we go overboard in subsidizing higher ED – especially at high dollar State public Universities while doing no where near that level of effort to get people to graduate from K-12 with enough proficiency and financial aid to go to Community college – and get a job – become a taxpayer – and not need entitlements.

    That’s where I am coming from on taxpayer-assistance for education. We’ve skewed our priorities and we tilt toward the more well off and disregard those in the lower tiers.

    we should want to create as many taxpayers as we can FIRST – rather than making a tradeoff between higher earning college grads – and entitlement-needing high school grads.

    We’ve made it very much an all of nothing proposition where – if you’re headed for a 4yr – we lavish financial help and if you are not – too bad – you are screwed.

    and the colleges like UVA are actually acting more like predatory pay-day loan operations than legitimate institutions offering truly affordable college and the rest of us – see equivalent “help” for kids going to community college as “subsidies for those who don’t deserve them”

    • Well…..I think it depends on your perspective about 21st century economics. Was the 20th century in America a baseline or an outlier? Is the “middle class” a permanent feature or a transitory feature?

      Tough to say. None of us are clairvoyant. Though, I find it disturbing that a lot of indicators do seem to show us headed to a 10/90 society of the top 10% basically reaping all the benefits in terms of economics.

      If we are headed to a 10/90 society, then the state has it right…..subsidize the TOP engineering, business, computer science, medical and law programs in the state….the fight will be over the top 10% of talent in American society….you would definitely want the top college/graduate programs in those fields located in your state if you are a state policy maker.

      If you believe in 20th century economics a the model for the 21st century, then the larryg model is the rational model to adopt.

      Too bad we don’t know which way we’re headed in terms of economics.

      • what we do know:

        1. – that it IS the 21st century
        2. – that even a K-12 education will not get you a self-supporting job these days
        3. – that we don’t need to be clairvoyant to know that those who not only donj’t go to a 4yr but not to a 2yr either -will require taxes for their entitlements from those who do go to a 4yr.

        we’re being dumb about this in our quest to worry about the middle class.

        I’m all for the middle-class – but not if we prioritize most of the funding to the middle class while generating more and more entitlement-needing under classes – that will be paid for – by the middle class.

        we’re blinded by our “wants” .. we’re in denial about the costs of entitlements for those that do not get even a minimal education…

        it’s more than moral -it’s fiscal.. more and more, virtually all jobs – require a higher level of reading, writing, math and the ability to think critically about the elements of a job.

        whether it’s sequencing traffic lights, or aggregating data for parking “apps” or uber or even diagnosing an automobile – all of these now require – much, much more – than what we provide in high school.

        Europe and Japan – know this – and that’s why we rank 25th..

        we are in denial about this…

        we absolutely must make two years of community college the new normal for K-12.. or else we’re (aka the middle class) going to drown in taxes to pay entitlement costs.

        IMHO , of course.

  6. Every single kid in Virginia – no matter where they live – should absolutely KNOW that if they get good grades in K-12 HS – that they will be ENTITLED to a 2yr degree in a nearby Community College.

    I’d do this before I give a penny more to UVA .

    I have to say – I’m sick of hearing about the “tragedy” of the affordability of UVA… when we have thousands of young folks in HS that could succeed at Community College if they were assured of financial support to attend.

    One of the big things – to me – is that many Community College attendees do not require public assistance for room & board and yet we act like it’s mandatory for govt assistance for 4yr college. why?

    why is that not the responsibility of the kid and parent while at the same time we have an attitude that even tuition alone at a Community College is a “cost” to taxpayers?

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