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Consultants Analyze Higher Ed "Breakthrough Solutions"

In recent months, a set of seven "breakthrough solutions" for higher education have been discussed, debated and mulled over in the press, the Legislature, and various academic circles. Arguably lacking in the debate is the voice of a disinterested third party — until now.

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In recent months, a set of seven "breakthrough solutions" for higher education have been discussed, debated and mulled over in the press, the Legislature, and various academic circles. Arguably lacking in the debate is the voice of a disinterested third party — until now.

The "solutions" were written by Acton School of Business founder Jeff Sandefer and debuted at a 2008 event put on by Gov. Rick Perry and the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, of which Sandefer is a board member. Shortly afterward, before reporting back to the governor's office their initial analysis of the proposed approaches, the University of Houston System sought the advice of Pappas Consulting Group Inc., a Connecticut-based organization that advises colleges and universities around the country.

In the analysis they prepared for UH in 2008, the group asserted that it was "in a unique position" to evaluate the proposed reforms because, in addition to having consultants with experience inside and outside of higher education, "we are unapologetic both in our praise and in our criticism of higher education."

According to their analysis, obtained by the Tribune and authenticated by UH, the Pappas group took that unapologetic approach in considering the "breakthrough solutions." The various goals of the reforms are described as "admirable," "praiseworthy" and "sound." However, the methods with which those goals are to be achieved are said to have "serious limitations," to be "problematic" and described as "not exactly clear."

The consultants expressed surprise that the proposals did not mention service, which they said has been increasing in importance. They also cautioned against "one-size-fits-all" solutions and emphasized a need to encourage "mission differentiation" among universities.

"We’ve never pretended that there is a single best way that works for every institution, even institutions within the same system," TPPF spokesman David Guenthner told the Tribune in response to the Papppas analysis. "I think it’s going to be a matter of experimentation and innovation trying to figure out which are the best approaches for different types of institutions."

Here's the Pappas Consulting Group's full 2008 analysis of the solutions and particularly how they relate to UH:

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