It is hard to miss story after story in the media about the fluctuations in the global economy and the financial difficulties facing the federal and many state governments across the United States. Dealing with limited resources, funding for higher education has been diverted to meet other high priority needs. Yet society still expects investments in STEM education to satisfy the demand for skilled workers that can feed the high tech economy.
On one hand, state funding declines for higher education, while on the other hand public sentiment rails against rising tuition that makes up for the reduction of state appropriations. It has become more common to hear about closures of colleges and universities due to enrollment decline and unmet revenue to meet operational obligations. In other cases, budget constraints have eliminated some programs and services.
In a sense, the higher education community faces a similar situation to that of the automotive and electronics industries during the 1980s, a scenario that brought out fierce competition for survival. The turnaround for those sectors came from focusing primarily on improving the quality of their products by reducing defects and wastes during the manufacturing process. Better quality helped them retain more
Those quality initiatives, including the Six Sigma methodology, are still around today. And Six Sigma has a
proven track record of success, primarily in manufacturing but also in service organizations.