Indiana University educators say state lawmakers are trying to move higher education toward a "one-size-fits-all model" by requiring colleges to develop road maps to degree completion and create common curricula and standards to make general education classes transferable.
But the head of IU's board of trustees says faculty need to accept that college standards are changing and adapt to stay ahead of the shift.
Faculty leaders met with trustees Chairman Thomas E. Reilly Jr. recently in Bloomington to discuss whether the moves, which lawmakers say are designed to increase efficiency and on-time graduation, will achieve those goals.
"With luck, yeah, the degree maps will probably improve the progress of a few students," said Bloomington Faculty Council President Herb Terry. "I fear that some of them will follow them like a GPS all the way into the river, to be honest."
Indiana has long struggled to increase the number of residents with college degrees. A Lumina Foundation report found less than 34 percent of working-age Hoosiers had college degrees in 2011, making Indiana the lowest state in the Midwest for college attainment.
The Indiana Education Roundtable in 2012 passed the "Reaching Higher, Achieving More" resolution, which looked to increase on-time graduation rates at both two- and four-year campuses and double the number of college graduates produced in the state by 2025.
IU faculty members told The Herald-Times they're concerned that efficiency hasn't always meant quality. Alex Lichtenstein, an associate professor of history at IU, cited advanced placement classes in high schools. Those classes allow lower-paid teachers to educate students instead of a highly paid university professor. But Lichtenstein said many students who come to college with advanced placement credits aren't prepared for higher-level courses.
Reilly said universities have to accept that efficiency is necessary and predicted that half of the country's research universities might not be research universities within 15 years if funding continues to dry up.
He said he met recently with Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder, who suggested the four-year degree model is being overtaken by a mixture of associate degrees, certificates, a year abroad and online courses.
"Those are the types of thoughts that are coming in," Reilly said, "and I think that some of that is going to happen, or some alternative, if you folks don't come up with better alternatives. It's being driven by forces out there in the world that are difficult just to counter with the status quo."