'Fragile' equilibrium

Data from a recent study on public higher education, conducted by three higher-education associations, shows "neither disastrous deterioration nor spectacular progress, but rather fragile stability."

* Deferred maintenance of physical assets, highlighted by a sharp decline in capital outlays.

* Deferred maintenance of financial assets highlighted by the drawing down of reserves for current operations.

* Deferred maintenance of human capital, highlighted by faculty compensation failing to keep pace with inflation and by an even wider margin failing to keep up with rising average wages and salaries for the national labor force, all having led to a new, precarious kind of solvency in public higher education, the authors said.

* A slight rise in enrollment from 1976-77 to 1979-80, with a decrease in the number of freshmen, sophomores, and graduate students at four-year institutions and an increase in the number of students at two-year colleges.

* Secondary school students inadequately prepared for college work, which results in expensive remedial programs.

* Other costs pressuring higher education which can be attributed to such social pressures as greater access for the handicapped, collective bargaining, affirmative action, and women's athletics.

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