(Albuquerque) Reports of a higher education bubble have become commonplace in recent years. And, while recent data indicate that the trend is slowing, there is a growing belief that higher education in the United States is in need of a new, more cost-effective model.

In a new policy brief which is available here, Rio Grande Foundation Senior Fellow and higher education expert Pat Leonard outlines a new, “lean model” for higher education. Notes Leonard, “Not only has the price of higher education increased rapidly in recent years, but the quality of that education has declined as well.”

The solution, argues Leonard, is to create new, four year streamlined institutions, similar in many ways to K-12 charter schools, which would compete on the basis of value-added and rigorous cost control. Traditional budget formulation in higher education tends to view the bulk of institutional costs as fixed. The Lean College’s budget formulation will regard few if any as fixed. It will provide quality baccalaureate instruction at a minimum cost.

The idea of the “Lean College” is to cut out some of the unnecessary frills like fancy buildings, professors forced to split their time between teaching and research, and the need for expensive sports teams and facilities.

The concept is meant to re-focus higher education on its core and restore the high-quality, low-cost option to American higher education.