Public Goods and the Public Good: Economics, the University and the Library
I will offer reflections and speculations on the circumstances and prospects of universities (especially public flagships). How are we to understand the changes in the technical and political environments that seem to be putting the quality of U.S. public universities at risk, and what might we do about it? Answers to both of these questions will be incomplete and speculative (as we would expect from an experienced administrator) and will be informed by my experience as an economist, a provost, and a university librarian. The university librarian part turns out to be more important than one might think a priori, because changes in information technology and associated markets become apparent in the library before they become apparent in the Dean’s office. I hope to stimulate vigorous discussion of these and related matters. And I might also talk a little about the phenomenon that is known as grade inflation.
Paul N. Courant is the University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan. He is also Harold T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Economics, Professor of Information, and Faculty Associate in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. From 2002-2005 he served as Provost and Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs, the chief academic officer and the chief budget officer of the University. He has also served as the Associate Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs, Chair of the Department of Economics and Director of the Institute of Public Policy Studies (which is now the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy).
Courant has authored half a dozen books, and over seventy papers covering a broad range of topics in economics and public policy, including tax policy, state and local economic development, gender differences in pay, housing, radon and public health, relationships between economic growth and environmental policy, and university budgeting systems. More recently, he is studying the economics of universities, the economics of libraries and archives, and the changes in the system of scholarly communication that derive from new information technologies.
Paul Courant holds a BA in History from Swarthmore College (1968); an MA in Economics from Princeton University (1973); and a PhD in Economics from Princeton University (1974). He rides a BMW R1150R motorcycle.