Who is Richard Sandefer and Why Should I Care?

Sandefer is the founder of the  Acton School of Business and a prime mover behind the effort in Texas to radically change the University of Texas.

from Real Estate Investment Ideas No doubt the most unusual M.B.A. program in the country is run by the Acton School of Business in Texas. It is built on the premise that incentives matter and that higher education’s failures are usually attributable to a lack of proper incentives. The school is the brainchild of Jeff Sandefer, a Texas business professor and entrepreneur who started the institution. As I understand it, new entering students pay a relatively high private school tuition to attend their first semester. They work like dogs –sort of a boot camp for entrepreneurs, working typically more than 12 hour days at least six days weekly –no 30 hour work weeks as is common in academia. Students successfully completing the first semester are given the second semester free of charge. If they complete the second (and last) semester, they get a rebate on the tuition for the first semester. They are expected, however, to pledge eventually make donations to the school at least equal to the value of the tuition if they feel they benefited materially from it (this is more of a moral than legal obligation, I understand).

Not only are students incentivized to work hard, so are faculty members.Salaries are modest –$5,000 or so per course. But huge bonuses are given for superior teaching performance ($20,000 or more per course). And each year, the lowest performing professor, based on student evaluations, is dropped from the faculty –no tenure here. Princeton Review considers it one of the nation’s top MBA programs, and my guess is its reputation among employers, etc., will grow over time. Obviously, a lot of private funds are needed to make this program work, and its advantage is less the cost savings per student (which are nonetheless real) than the high quality of the finished product.


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  1. P Toifel #

    Vadder and Sandefer new prophecies that proclaim changes and blame higher education for the present depressive state of the Union do not seem to realize that it’s US colleges graduates that brought man to the moon, that introduced inventions that allow our species to live a longer and healthier life, that in fact created the technological crib that human species live inn these days, and that even made possible the web technology they use to propagate their stupid sanctum sanctorum. Conversely, it’s the corporate philosophy of jungle competition without restrain that brought our country to the calamitous state we are. It was their President Bush that got us in a stupid war to steal oil from the middle east and in the mean time wasted a balance of several billion dollars and put us in a trillion dollar debt; it was their unrestrained lack of control and lack of the most basic ethics that got the insurance and bank industry to steal at unprecedented magnitudes, to the point of compromising the global economic system. And now they are pretending to sell their snake oil to the public and blame higher education? They own most of the public media but not yet the web, and if we, college faculty don’t rise to uncover their lies, we are virtual accomplices in this campaign of miss education of our fellow citizens. Mr. Sandefer approach to educate winners has its presedent in the Chicago School of Economics, and it is in fact another amplified madrasa to produce exactly the barracuda species that kill the old Yaqui ethics that made this country a leader and brought economic stability and progress to the world.

  2. theaveeditor #

    I read them VERY differently.

    What I fear is that their support for reform through the pocketbook, will kill the engine that produced the great US higher ed system.

    The worst alternative seems to me to be epitomized by Western Governors University … an effort to cut costs in dollars at the price of divesting education of standards. Here in WA State a bipartisan majority of legislators passed a bill placing WGU’s dubious private degree on a par with our highly rated tate college degrees.

    Why did the Dems and Reps do that? They did it because WGU is not state supported .. other than the fact they depend on state funded scholarships and student loans! Now they can claim to increase the numbers of WA kids going to college!

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