Ivory towers’ reality check

Special to The Times

“The Ivory Tower in the Real World,” a five-part series beginning today on “Marketplace,” public radio’s free-wheeling business-news show, takes a look at how the down economy is affecting higher education, and what students, faculty and institutions are doing to cope.

The first segment looks at the financial health of schools, based on how they invested their money in the 1990s boom. While some dipped into endowments or incurred capital costs, anticipating investment returns that have since evaporated, the already-flush Harvards and Yales of the world are distancing themselves from the have-nots.

On Tuesday, the program examines whether the coming wave of high school grads can afford college, with financially strapped schools expecting them to bear more of the cost.

On Wednesday, the program looks at state universities such as Michigan and Wisconsin, which are considering privatizing to protect themselves from budget-cutting legislatures.


Thursday’s show, “The Trouble With Tenure,” examines how tight budgets and the hiring of part-time faculty threaten the concept of guaranteed employment. Friday’s edition looks at small colleges thriving in hard times by cutting tuition or using other incentives to lure students.

“Marketplace” airs weekdays on KCRW-FM (89.9) from 2 to 2:30 p.m., and on KPCC-FM (89.3) from 2:30 to 3 p.m., with a rebroadcast at 6:30 p.m.