As we continue to recover from the crash of the American economy in 2008, we are seeing more changes befalling traditional universities. More and more, universities are changing over to a business-like model for education as they struggle to cut costs, scrap unessential programs and staff, keep tuition low, and continue to follow their mission of educating students well.

Presidents of universities are either stepping down or being replaced by those outside the education realm, who have more experience in cutting costs and raising money. Clearly, universities must change something if they are to continue functioning in this country; and it seems that this is the way many are choosing to go, electing former CEOs and executives to lead them into the new generation of education.

Even high-end universities like Purdue are struggling in these hard economic times, and in January France A. Córdova, Purdue’s 12th president, will step down. She will be replaced by Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., who many believe can continue to lead the university successfully into better times. While some are skeptical of Daniels’ replacement, others are confident that it’s the right way to go.

Keith Krach is board chairman for Purdue, and says Daniels’ appointment is “an innovative, game-changing move for Purdue.”

Purdue University

Hovde Hall, Purdue
Image: Chris Harnish via Flickr

“Gov. Mitch Daniels will continue to raise the global profile of Purdue. He’s committed to the success of our land-grant institution, he’s an advocate for economic progress through innovative research and he’s made Indiana the state to watch for the last several years,” Krach continues. “With his leadership, intellect and passion for higher education, there’s no limit to the greatness Purdue can achieve.”

But other universities facing similar problems continue to struggle. At the University of Virginia, President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign for moving too slowly to address shrinking funding, online course offerings, and more. However, in Sullivan’s case, the faculty, alumni, and students successfully stood behind her and demanded her reinstatement—which occurred just three weeks later.

Sullivan is among those who believe that corporate leadership style should be divorced from a university setting. But the fact remains that, with dried up funding, universities may not have a choice much longer.