The Financialization of Higher Education: At the University of Cincinnati

April 7, 2021

The Financialization of Higher Education: At the University of Cincinnati is part of the Roosevelt Network’s Financialization of Higher Education project. To learn more about the project, click here.

In the wake of the 2008 economic recession, universities across the United States have seen significant shifts in financial management. Through shifting priorities away from fostering the academic mission and toward the development of monetary streams that provide revenue for the financial sector, many public universities have employed a practice, whether intentionally or not, known as the “financialization of higher education.” Financialization is a particular framework of governing an institution that is defined by placing a high sense of value on “the increase in the size, scope, and power of the financial sector—the people and firms that manage money and underwrite stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other securities—relative to the rest of the economy.” This comes at the expense of the students, faculty, and broader academic mission of these universities; institutions of higher education have increased costs for students, including tuition price and additional fees, while simultaneously redirecting existing institutional resources towards programs whose interests do not align with the universities’ stated academic priorities. All of this has happened without the expressed input or consent of academic stakeholders.

The Financialization of Higher Education: At the University of Cincinnati illustrates the trends of financialization at the University of Cincinnati, which include but are not limited to: unreasonable rises in tuition and fees, the unrepresentative terms under which these funds are allocated, the financial quagmire of the athletics department, and the unethical investments of the endowment (with specific attention paid to hedge funds). The University of Cincinnati’s mission statement depicts the institution as one which “serves the people of Ohio, the nation, and the world as a premier, public, urban research university dedicated to undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, experience-based learning, and research.” However, as the budgetary prioritization and unrepresentative financial decision-making since the 2008 economic recession indicate, the university’s actions run contrary to its expressed mission. The issues at hand are the result of an extractive corporate business model designed to maximize profits for a powerful minority at the expense of the collective interests of the broader public, manifesting within institutions that are meant to serve as universal points of access to knowledge and as resources for that same public.