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  • Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containmentin Higher Education
  • Jake Julia
Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education by William F. Massy. Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2003. 388 pages. Cloth $39.95. ISBN 1-882982-56-8.

William F. Massy's goal for Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education is to present "a practical program for improvement- what faculty, institutional leaders, trustees, and oversight bodies can do now to improve the quality of education without spending more or abandoning other principles." It's an extremely ambitious undertaking that he is successful in achieving. His premise for this book is that while there is public trust that higher education in the United States is currently the world standard, this trust may be based more on past performance than current practice.

A recent survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education (Selingo, 2003) supports this notion, finding that "faith in American higher education remains [End Page 596] at extraordinary levels," while at the same time Americans "dislike many things that colleges do." Massy strongly advocates for systematic change in U.S. colleges and universities that casts off the entrenchment found in too many institutions and embraces standards of quality, assessment, and achievement that will, in his words, "honor the trust placed in academe by the larger society."

Based on his recent research with the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement (NCPI), as well as 20 years as a university officer, Massy provides an effective roadmap for improving the educational processes and productivity in colleges and universities through the systematic and effective practice of a set of fundamental management principles. He does an excellent job of weaving his own ideas on quality, cost containment, and decision-making with several established methodologies. The book consists of two sections: (1) The case for change, and (2) Improving practice. The first section articulates the need and context for systematic change in colleges and universities and the second section then outlines how to achieve this change, concluding with a pragmatic set of action steps for doing so.

In making the case for change in higher education, he makes a persuasive argument that universities are economic enterprises utilizing modes of delivery and decision-making that are inadequate in today's competitive and economically constrained environment. This section of the book includes several tools for decision-making, and those related to institutional subsidies and contribution margins are particularly valuable. These tools are suggested within a context of preserving a set of core institutional values: academic freedom, autonomy, and faculty empowerment.

One set of useful tools he presents is a "conceptual decision rule" for helping to determine where and how to invest institutional resources among programs with very different missions and a "practical decision rule" for senior officers to use when making specific programmatic decisions that will affect cross subsidies that cross the teaching and research missions of an institution. While one wonders if senior officers and/or their subordinates would take the time to apply these formulas each time they need to make a resource allocation decision, they provide clear principles for supporting and considering such decisions.

Another key principle that Massy addresses in the first section of the book is faculty productivity and its linkage to academic quality. While this is a contentious concept in many colleges and universities, he doesn't shrink away from advocating the need for developing faculty productivity goals and standards in order to build stronger trust among external constituents. His use of the results from NCPI based research (Massy and Wilger, 1995) is helpful in supporting his assertions that productivity requirements are implicitly acknowledged in academia, and that these requirements will vary among institutional types. The chapter on information technology's role in enhancing productivity is very useful, especially the segment outlining the potential for leveraging the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

In the improving practice section of the book, Massy focuses on quality processes, quality principles, quality oversight, and balancing cost and quality. Again he uses the results of the NCPI research to support his contention that faculty and other institutional leaders must apply quality improvement principles in order to raise...