Columns / Discourse / April 20, 2016

Ending deficit without outsourcing possible

Unfortunately, Knox College is currently, and has been for quite some time, in a deficit. It is not that Knox College is in debt, but rather the expenses needed to run the college outweigh the money brought in through tuition. Therefore Knox has to use emergency funds that are normally outside of the budget to stay afloat. As a way out of the deficit, the Knox Administration has been trying to cut costs. One of the ways that they have been doing this is by outsourcing the college’s assets to for-profit corporations. The logic behind this is that outsourcing is seen as cheaper due to economies of scale; a larger corporation could run one of Knox’s assets more cheaply, because they might, for instance, buy resources in bulk. This practice follows conservative and neoliberal paradigms that are visible in mainstream U.S. politics in which to lower the national deficit various social services and institutions are being defunded, like Medicaid, or privatized, like the prison system.

Although outsourcing Knox’s assets is one possible way to lower the deficit, it is not their only option. Another way to decrease the deficit is to increase the college’s revenue. There are two methods to increase Knox’s revenue. The first is to dramatically increase tuition, which, for a cornucopia of reasons, would be a terrible idea. The second method to increase the college’s revenue is to increase Knox’s number of customers; in more human words, expand the student body. Expanding the student body would spread the cost needed to run the school across a larger number of students, in the end creating our own economies of scale.

It is no secret that many small liberal arts colleges seem the same to the untrained eye of a prospective student. Most admissions pitches seem very similar in promise; they will advertise a list of majors and minors, arbitrary positive adjectives, a catchy slogan and impressive looking numbers. Knox Admissions, unfortunately, is not much different. By insourcing the college’s assets, Knox could alleviate this problem. Instead of advertising simply numbers and facts about Galesburg and Knox, we could instead inform prospective students about the benefits of keeping our assets in-house, and why it is important to consider while looking at colleges. Approximately four out of the 14 ACM schools, and 12 out of the 40 Colleges that Change Lives, run their own dining services programs; if Knox College did the same we could differentiate ourselves further from schools we are compared to most often. If the Knox Administration were to increase the size of the student body, we would not blend into the crowd. Knox needs to be a Baked in a town of Pizza Huts, Domino’s and Papa John’s.

One might ask how simply advertising a moral stance against outsourcing could increase the student population; in a nutshell, increasing progressivist and anti-capitalist attitudes will push students to schools that have these values. In a poll done by right-wing political consultant Frank Luntz, 66 percent of respondents aged 18-26 said that corporate America “embodies everything that is wrong with America.” Although this poll focused around 18-26 year olds, this trend probably extends down at least a few years as well. From a business perspective, insourcing — and advertising why we are doing so — would place Knox College into a niche within the market.

By cutting from the mold that many other small liberal arts colleges are setting, we could reaffirm our historical values of social justice and progressivism that have continuously set us apart from many other schools. Knox College as an institution and community has historically worked to end oppression and stratification. Knox was one of the first schools to allow people of color to attend, and one of the first to desegregate women and men in the classroom. Knox has such a powerful history of standing up for what is right. We cannot rest on the laurels of our past, we need to insource our assets. We need to once again take to heart what it means to be a College that Changes Lives.

Alex Davis

Tags:  Alex Davis Deficit hiring practices insourcing Knox College outsourcing

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