Ehrenberg Named to Panel

Higher education expert helping association respond to university program and department closings
Higher education expert helping association respond to university program and department closings
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Professor Ronald G. Ehrenberg has been named by the American Association of University Professors as a consultant to a subcommittee examining funding conditions which some say threaten higher education.

Ehrenberg is recognized nationally as an expert on the economics of higher education.

The subcommittee is scheduled to meet Monday (April 11) in Washington, D.C.

It will discuss two "Financial Exigency" and "Discontinuance of Program or Department Not Mandated by Financial Exigency" – key portions of the association's Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Michael Bérubé of Pennsylvania State University and chair of the subcommittee, said the regulations "make provision for program closings and terminations of appointments when universities face 'financial exigency.' "

"'Exigency,' however, is defined as 'an imminent financial crisis that threatens the survival of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.' It is becoming increasingly clear that the financial crises faced by many American colleges and universities are not 'imminent' in this sense, and do not threaten 'the survival of the institution as a whole.'"

"Rather, what we are seeing is a series of slow bleeds, crises brought on by austerity and attrition -- especially at publicly funded institutions whose public funding has been dwindling for decades."

The subcommittee, Bérubé said, "is devoted to the question of how the AAUP can best respond to program closings and terminations under such conditions, conditions which may not threaten entire institutions with imminent bankruptcy but which do threaten to transform American higher education as a whole."

Ehrenberg is Cornell's Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics. He is also director of the Cornell University Higher Education Research Institute ( and a member of the State University of New York Board of Trustees.

The American Association of University Professors defines itself as "a non-profit charitable and educational organization promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, shared governance and standards of quality in higher education."

Based in Washington, D.C., it has more than 48,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.