By: Jeffrey L. Buller, PhD
It is quite possible that the three largest explosions you can create occur if you drop an atomic bomb, set off a hydrogen bomb, or utter the words “students are customers” in the presence of a college professor. Students aren’t really their professors’ customers, of course, and there are plenty of reasons why applying a business model to colleges and universities never works. Still, there has to be some reason why legislators, trustees, and even some parents keep this idea alive. Often, there tends to be the idea that institutions of higher education should pay more attention to the bottom line and stop running sections of courses that only enroll a handful of students—unless, of course, the speaker’s own son or daughter happens to want that particular course. Lately, however, it has seemed to me as though academic leaders can indeed learn a few lessons from business, at least from certain types of businesses that interact with their customers (college professors, please pardon the term) in particular ways.