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Administrative Bloat at America’s Colleges and Universities

education-money-stacks

One major factor in the skyrocketing cost of a college education in America is a huge increase in overhead costs.

WSJ (“Deans List: Hiring Spree Fattens College Bureaucracy—And Tuition“):

A Wall Street Journal analysis of University of Minnesota salary and employment records from 2001 through last spring shows that the system added more than 1,000 administrators over that period. Their ranks grew 37%, more than twice as fast as the teaching corps and nearly twice as fast as the student body.

Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It’s part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

[...]

At Minnesota, tuition and fees for state residents have more than doubled in a decade, to $13,524. That far exceeds the average at four-year public colleges of $8,655, which also represents a doubling, according to the College Board. Private-college tuition averages $29,056, but has risen more slowly.

For students, the effect is striking. In 1975, a University of Minnesota undergraduate could cover tuition by working six hours a week year-round at a minimum-wage job, the Journal calculated. Today, a student would have to work 32 hours at minimum wage to cover the cost.

[...]

The bureaucracy finds numerous ways to spend money. Officials have spent millions planning a not-yet-built residential community 20 miles from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus designed in part to showcase sustainable energy and environmental stewardship.

Administrative employees make up an increasing share of the university’s higher-paid people. The school employs 353 people earning more than $200,000 a year. That is up 57% from the inflation-adjusted pay equivalent in 2001. Among this $200,000-plus group, 81 today have administrative titles, versus 39 in 2001.

Administrators making over $300,000 in inflation-adjusted terms rose to 17 from seven.

Many forces besides administrative overhead add to universities’ cost pressures, among them health-care and retirement expenses. And among the administrative spending, some is unavoidable, such as that owing to federal rules requiring greater spending to oversee research grants or accommodations for students with disabilities.

Schools also compete—by necessity, they say—to offer fancier dorms, dining halls, gyms and other amenities, to raise their rankings and attract students. “It’s a competitive business, and institutions compete for students the same way Lexus and Mercedes compete for car buyers,” says Paul Lingenfelter, executive director of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

To compete, schools have stepped up borrowing for construction. Total debt at public four-year colleges more than tripled between 2002 and 2011, to $88 billion, according to the Department of Education. At the University of Minnesota, the yearly cost of servicing debt more than doubled to $106 million in that time.

For decades, public universities were somewhat insulated from financial rigor by steadily increasing state funding. That has slowed or stopped in many states in tight budgetary times. Minnesota’s government last year contributed $570 million to university operations, which was about the same as in the 2003-04 school year despite inflation and roughly 10% increased enrollment.

It’s not really shocking that colleges have experienced administrative creep. In any organization, those who directly report to and support the boss are in the best position to argue for more staff. Deficiencies in fundraising or personnel management impact the whole organization and are easily seen by the key decision-makers, whereas weaknesses at the department level are more isolated. A college president will be much more acutely aware of a failure to meet a reporting deadline or being out-competed by rival schools in some key area than a lack of expertise to teach classes in some sub-subfield of some academic discipline. So, it’ll always be easier for the Vice President for Institutional Advancement or Director of Admissions to secure a new staff line than the head of the biology or modern languages department.

Additionally, a changing regulatory environment and other external pressures contribute to the problem:

In its Office of Equity and Diversity, the number of people with “director” in their title grew to 10 in the 2011-2012 school year from just four directors five years earlier, by a university official’s count.

Growth in the diversity office is an attempt to make the campus “more inclusive and more welcoming to people of different backgrounds,” Dr. Kaler says.

Forty years ago, one presumes the university had no Office of Equity and Diversity. Now, it’s a burgeoning enterprise. And, bureaucracies being what they are, one suspects the Office will continue to grow long after its original purpose has been fulfilled.

Caution fed bureaucratic growth after the school agreed to pay the federal government $32 million in 1998 to settle allegations relating to sales of an unlicensed transplant drug. The school acknowledged mismanagement of grant funds, and the National Institutes of Health put its grant applications under special scrutiny, creating research delays and faculty departures.

To prevent a repeat, officials imposed “fairly onerous bureaucratic processes,” said R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research. He said the university “evolved a very, very risk-averse, very, very conservative culture.”

As institutions become more dependent on government and foundation grants, they eventually have to create a bureaucracy to manage the process, which is is complex and onerous enough that it can’t be freelanced by even highly intelligent professionals in other fields. A physics professor simply doesn’t have the expertise to navigate the reporting and other compliance requirements of the manifold grants he’s managing. Further, as the institution attracts enough grants, threshold requirements kick in that individual grant holders would be completely unaware of.

While adding additional administrative staff is initially helpful to the organization, bringing substantial benefits to the core operators that they might not even be aware of, eventually the layers of bureaucracy escalate the cost of doing business:

Several years ago, Russell Luepker, a professor of epidemiology at the school of public health, sought reimbursement for a $12 parking bill. The form went from a secretary to the head of his department to an accountant who entered it in a computer to a senior accountant responsible for approving it. Richard Portnoy, chief administrative officer in the epidemiology department, estimates it cost $75 to move the paperwork. When Dr. Luepker heard of it, he stopped filing for parking reimbursements.

Of course, if everyone follwed Dr. Luepker’s example, the school would save money! But most will naturally expect to be reimbursed for expenses incurred carrying out school business.

Note, too, that while the focus of the article is on the explosion of administrative staff, massive increases in physical plant, retirement pensions, and health care costs are mentioned as asides. They’re huge costs and very difficult to contain.

While fancy dorm rooms and dining halls strike those of us who went to school in a more austere time as absurd luxuries, the fact of the matter is that the major universities compete with one another for the best students and athletes. If Wisconsin-Madison has substantially more impressive facilities than Minnesota-Minneapolis, outstanding students torn between the two schools will naturally gravitate toward the former. If Ohio State has better football dorms or practice facilities or locker rooms than Michigan or vice-versa, they’ll have a substantial recruiting advantage over their rival. It’s essentially an arms race.

Unless and until we move to a single-payer healthcare system, removing the burden from employers, institutions that depend on a quality workforce will continue to be faced with escalating costs that have nothing to do with their core mission. (That’s true in other sectors of the economy as well, of course, especially those in competition with overseas firms not similarly burdened.)

Similarly, so long as people retire at a relatively young age and draw a pension from their former employer for decades after they’ve left, institutions will be dragged down by those costs. Alas, universities are indirectly dealing with that in the worst possible way: by hiring temporary workers rather than full-time professionals to do their core mission, teach students.

Indeed, that’s the irony here: as with many institutions, the easiest place in higher education to hold down costs is by scrimping on what is ostensibly the main thing the institution does. With state tax dollars going away and costs going up, college presidents are adding highly paid staff to go after outside funds. Meanwhile, they’re closing entire academic departments if they’re seen as revenue losers and being very frugal in replacing departing faculty with tenure-track hires.

via Professor Bainbridge

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    This isn’t a surprise. As more government funds and grants go into higher education, the administration and bureaucracy seem to naturally increase. Federal grant money for research is the life blood of higher education, granted that some of the projects seem silly and worthless such as the infamous study of why kids fall off of tricycles (ever hear of gravity?). I went to a small college with a very small administration. Some of my teachers doubled by working in the registrar’s office and doing some of the accounting. All of the administration fit into one room. It was a great college, the teachers know us by name and would even phone if we missed class.

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  2. Rob McMillin says:

    Unless and until we move to a single-payer healthcare system, removing the burden from employers, institutions that depend on a quality workforce will continue to be faced with escalating costs that have nothing to do with their core mission.

    This, of course, is hilarious. Having spent the rest of the article explaining how third-party-pays systems ratchet up costs for education, the author then immediately ignores the same exact problem with medicine and prescribes it as a cure. The irony couldn’t be richer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  3. Just Me says:

    I think the sad thing is that 20 years ago it was easily possible for a student to work part time and pay their way through college. Now this isn’t possible. I suspect there are ways to trim most of the bloat, I am just not convinced colleges and universities are willing to take those steps.

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  4. john personna says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    This, of course, is hilarious. Having spent the rest of the article explaining how third-party-pays systems ratchet up costs for education, the author then immediately ignores the same exact problem with medicine and prescribes it as a cure. The irony couldn’t be richer.

    It should at least be explained, and I think I can.

    In both cases costs are advocated by players, in a classic principal–agent problem. The thing about health care buried in a university system is that it is deep, and agents have low oversight. The top line arguments are all about subsidy rates and student fees, and no one drills down to appropriate costs for procedure X.

    On the other hand, with a national health care, it is “put your eggs in one basket and watch that one basket very closely” situation. The whole focus is on price for procedures and etc for cost control.

    That is why the OECD nations with national health plans are able to control costs, after all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. john personna says:

    @Just Me:

    Clayton Christensen, quoted at The Economist, goes as far as to suggest that some colleges will go bankrupt in some coming costs-technology upheaval.

    That would suggest that there will be some discussion at these colleges about who is doing what, and whether a green village is exceeding the mission.

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  6. JKB says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    The irony is, the single payer system would consume the tax dollars draining grant money from the university. This will leave them dependent on tuition from students for the product, a quality education, they are consistently undermining.

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  7. Rob McMillin says:

    @Just Me: They will not take those steps because they have not been forced to.

    Some time ago, during the height of the Occupy Wall Street mania, a common Facebook meme circulated of a professor holding a hand-written sign complaining about the terrible debts his charges would face as they left college. And my immediate reaction was, “Did you offer to take a salary cut? No? Then aren’t you part of the problem?” But such lines of thinking are largely forbidden; always, education is such a splendid value that no price should ever be too high, so say the ones delivering it, and all the mandarins behind them.

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  8. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    So the theory that single-payer would be more expensive trumps the reality that single-payer costs half as much.

    You must be a conservative!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. john personna says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    Again, reality. As I understand it net-pay of instructors has decreased, as “professors” are reduced and replaced by part-time staff.

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  10. Rafer Janders says:

    For students, the effect is striking. In 1975, a University of Minnesota undergraduate could cover tuition by working six hours a week year-round at a minimum-wage job, the Journal calculated. Today, a student would have to work 32 hours at minimum wage to cover the cost

    One reason for this is that education costs have spiraled.

    The other, of course, is that due to federal failure to raise its value, the minimum wage has eroded over time. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, but had it only kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years, it would be over $10 per hour.

    If, however, you looked at per capita real personal income excluding current transfer receipts (i.e. personal earned income, excluding Social Security and other government transfer programs, adjusted for inflation) you’d see that it increased by 100% since 1968. Therefore, if the minimum wage had kept pace with overall income growth in the economy over the last 40 years, it would now be approximately $21 per hour.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    And my immediate reaction was, “Did you offer to take a salary cut?

    College instructors don’t have to offer to take a salary cut, as their salaries have already been cut.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Rob McMillin: @JKB: @john personna: There are multiple issues here, of course, but his isn’t a health care post. My narrow point here was simply that, so long as employers are expected to pay for employee health care—a system pretty much unique to the United States—it’s an anchor to efficiency.

    In terms of overall costs, there’s zero question that a single payer system is far cheaper than our current hodgepodge. And they also tend to deliver better outcomes. Most of the arguments against the move stem from the incorrect belief that the only alternative is a British-style system of government hospitals.

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  13. Woody says:

    “Nothing propinks like propinquity”

    Administration and bureaucracy have become voracious behemoths all over Education – from the public schools to the universities. A major reason stems from the fact that administrators are not rewarded for great teaching – they are rewarded for bringing in big money, some from alumni but much more through grants, etc. that require paperwork aplenty.

    Administrators spend the majority of their day in conference with other administrators — and the faculty soon becomes more of a bother than the focus of the institution. After all, their fellow administrators agree!

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  14. Rob McMillin says:

    @JKB: That’s actually a terrific point. By increasing the number of things the state is directly responsible for, a “single-payer” system would compete with education for scarce resources — thus pushing more and more of its operation costs directly onto those who benefit from it directly. I expect this wouldn’t have much salutary effect on the overall system, as the people who most need firing in the name of cost-cutting (administrators) are most directly able to prevent that from happening.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  15. Rob McMillin says:

    @James Joyner:

    In terms of overall costs, there’s zero question that a single payer system is far cheaper than our current hodgepodge.

    LOLZ. In the important measure of cost growth, single-payer is neither appreciably better or worse than what we have now. (In fact, the US has lately trailed the UK and its wholly socialized medicine.) See Exhibit 5 at this Kaiser Family Foundation study which used OECD data for its underlying numbers.

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  16. JKB says:

    @Just Me:

    There are some colleges that still concentrate on education. It is the universities that have conflicting priorities that leave education, especially undergraduate education, as the ugly step sister that will have trouble. Some continuing on prestige, the others not able to compete.

    This will be enhanced as colleges focusing on education are able to take advantage of MOOCs and other products that expose their students to the best lecturers

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  17. CSK says:

    Unless I missed something, the author didn’t take into account the fact that at most major universities, about 70-80% of the undergraduate teaching is done by graduate students who get paid nothing or a pittance, which means that even less money goes to instruction than people would ordinarily assume.

    Someone once–perhaps faux-naively–asked John Kenneth Galbraith why he didn’t hold office hours to see students, to which he replied that he didn’t see why he should, since they had nothing of interest to say to him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. john personna says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    There are actually 12 figures at that very good link. Most of them support the idea that alternatives are cheaper.

    The strongest counter argument, in my opinion, is actually Exhibit 9 (Public Health Expenditure as a Percentage of GDP).

    It suggests that rich countries have a cost tolerance, as percentage of GDP, as witnessed by that remarkable consistency, and that other plans would have similar costs for us after all.

    But certainly those 12 exhibits do not support the case that we are better off than most others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. john personna says:

    @this:

    Looking again, Exhibit 10 undermines that interpretation. “Public” costs are very similar. Then (Exhibit 11) we blow everything out of whack by paying almost as much again in “Private” costs.

    We can do so much better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: That’s all true. Still, as I noted in a recent post, the cost of attending my undergraduate alma mater has gone up 6.5 times, adjusted for inflation, over the last 25 years. So, even if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, you’d have to work 6.5 times as many hours to work your way through school.

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  21. JKB says:

    What is happening in higher ed is proceeding as foreseen by Milton Friedman. Here he speaks of the process in regards to socialized medicine.

    Education is simply using the variation with a “paying” customer backed by the government. Once the student loan debacle collapses, the “government money” will dry up and universities will find their “costs of procedure” set by government and the whole focus on cost control like is advocated for medicine.

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  22. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    I think that much is true. As I’ve said over the years, I think the whole idea of “affordable college” by way of loans was wrong-headed. Costs should have been attacked from the beginning.

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  23. JKB says:

    @James Joyner:

    Minimum wage is vicious. The higher it goes without a commiserate improvement in productivity the more inflation raises the cost of living. Minimum wage by definition goes to the least productive, in terms of skills, availability, effort, etc.. So it is a very vicious circle.

    Given education inflated faster than the general economy, minimum wage rises wouldn’t have solved the problem.

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  24. Rob McMillin says:

    @john personna: Yes. Yes, there are, but none of them go backwards, which essentially is the argument that all the single-payer advocates are making.

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  25. john personna says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    I think you just reached the ultimate defense against single-payer. It is the dark form of American exceptionalism.

    We’re too stupid. We aren’t as good. We can’t. (Kicks dirt.)

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  26. Franklin says:

    Just this morning I was reading a book by an old acquaintance. He started college in 1946 and his first semester’s tuition was 35 bucks.

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  27. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    LOL, the minimum wage, even if it were real, meaning that it set the prevailing minimum, would be no where close to impacting broad spending and inflation.

    The fact is though, it is another American Kabuki.

    We actually set it below the prevailing minimum, and so it has no net effect.

    About 6 percent of women paid hourly rates had wages at or below the prevailing Federal minimum, compared with about 4 percent of men.

    A real minimum would affect far, far, more workers.

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  28. john personna says:

    (Conservatives should be happy. For all their talk about reducing or eliminating the minimum wage, they don’t notice we essentially have none. A law that affects 4-6% of workers is nothing. It is not impacting the broader economy, at all.)

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  29. Just Me says:

    As I understand it net-pay of instructors has decreased, as “professors” are reduced and replaced by part-time staff.

    My guess is for a while at least the administrators will protect their positions while cutting at the instruction level. The guys in charge of the budgets aren’t going to write themselves out of the budget, but they can cut a professor’s hours or ask them to teach more classes.

    As for college-the best situation would be for a person to be able to afford an accredited degree by working part time to pay for it with no loans. This isn’t the current reality. My oldest is in college and even with scholarships and financial aid and work study she still has to take out loans. Over the long haul I worry that she will end up like many other college graduates with loans to pay and no real job.

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  30. Tyrell says:

    @CSK: This is the problem at most universities and some colleges. The priority is research and getting Federal money. Some of the stimulus money went for research grants, most of which are worthless and serve to help pay a few people (average on one grant was $800,000 per employee involved which was about 3, not much for stimulating the jobs which it was intended to do). The priority has shifted from teaching to research. Trying to reduce top heavy administrations is next to impossible. Just look at other organizations: corporations, state and local governments especially the public school systems, religious denominations, and Federal agencies. Administrations grow and then the priority is to maintain the administration by trying to get more money. Few cuts ever start at the top, it is always at the lower levels: teachers, custodians, etc.

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  31. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    In terms of overall costs, there’s zero question that a single payer system is far cheaper than our current hodgepodge. And they also tend to deliver better outcomes.

    Which is another reason you voted for Romney, I suppose, as the GOP has been such a strong advocate of the singler payer system….

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  32. wr says:

    @JKB: “Minimum wage is vicious. The higher it goes without a commiserate improvement in productivity the more inflation raises the cost of living.”

    The last 30 years have seen huge raises in productivity with essentially no raise in wages, except for those at the very top. If we were simply to change the wage scales to keep them in proportion to productivity we’d see a booming middle class and much less income equality.

    But of course you don’t care about that. You hate the minimum wage because it takes money from the noble, virtuous owners and gives it to those terrible “unproductive” people who only happen to do all the real work.

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  33. JKB says:

    @Tyrell:

    The universities have long relegated teaching as a necessary evil to keep the mythology alive. It worked okay when the college education brought value with simple graduation. The following comes from an article about 100 years old entitled “The Ban on Teaching”

    We are informed by many that education is failing us. And well it may he so, if producing books is eulogized and repaid hy advancement, while the efforts to produce men are scoffed at. It has been dinned in our ears that education must save us at the present juncture. To which, if true, I reply that, unless we regain the love and art of teaching, we are lost.

    The truth is that at present the teacher exists by sufferance only, and stands against the current in the scholarly fraternity-a fact recognized by students as well as by faculty. For the educational field has been preempted by the so-called “research men.” Their standards of scholarship have been set up as the only norms.

    Now that the credential is losing its value, the quality of the education (on the average) will have to improve or the price will have to fall. This is happening just when the monopoly aspects of the university, proximity to scholars, i.e., the odd upper level class, the library access to expensive books and journals, etc. is collapsing.

    Right now the university still has the conferment of the piece of paper, the pooling of individuals working on similar studies, inertia, “networking”. Pretty much all these can be and probably are being undermined by spontaneous process.

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  34. JKB says:

    @wr:

    It is nice you know what I think even as you have trouble comprehending what I write. But I see, if you read with prejudice, you might misapprehend what I wrote. Minimum wage is vicious because as it rises by fiat, all it does is drive up prices leaving the minimum wage worker the same or worse relatively. We’ve had a moderating affect on the price rise with cheap imports but that to is ending.

    That said, politicians raising minimum wage by politics does nothing but cause them to chase their tail although with good PR.

    As for wages overall, we really have to look at compensation. As government and benefits (healthcare quite dramatically) have been taking large portions, the “wages” part has been held down.

    And while I do think we need to separate healthcare from employment across the economy, I do not think a single payer system is the way to go.

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  35. mattb says:

    @CSK:

    Unless I missed something, the author didn’t take into account the fact that at most major universities, about 70-80% of the undergraduate teaching is done by graduate students who get paid nothing or a pittance, which means that even less money goes to instruction than people would ordinarily assume.

    This is fundamentally incorrect — and I am speaking as a graduate student at a major research university.

    Graduate students do teach a number of 100, and occasionally 200 level courses. In some departments like English — which service the entire campus — you’ll find a large number of those courses taught by graduate students. Additionally graduate students TA a number of courses, leading a weekly discussion section while Faculty teach the lecture session. And Graduate students are almost always doing all of the grading in these courses (even when they are not directly teaching the students).

    However almost all upper level undergraduate courses are taught (and graded) by faculty members.

    However, schools at all levels are increasingly relying on adjunct faculty and postdocs to teach a lot of the “crap” courses. And, believe it or not, they are often compensated *less* than graduate students.

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  36. mattb says:

    Three other notes on this topic in general:

    1. Part of the rise of academic administration is the professionalization of academic administration. The fact that most administration people on college campuses have advanced degrees in “higher ed administration” speaks to the problem. It also shows how people get around the entire you need an MA or PhD to be an administrator thing.

    2. Another reason for the rise is the fact that, while most universities operate as non-profits, they are increasing engaging in for-profit ventures that have little to do with education. Among the most recent trends include the development of “on campus college towns” and getting into the “retirement community” businesses. All of these lead to bloating of campus staff completely unrelated to the university’s original goals. It also plays havoc with local tax codes (since these are built on university owned land and don’t generate local property taxes).

    3. In terms of grants and funding, one of the biggest scams is that the university typically skims anywhere from 30-50% of the initial grant award for “oversight and administration.”

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  37. Andre Kenji says:

    @john personna: What happens in the United States is that most hospitals and clinics are private, but most of the money that funds them are public(Worse, if you consider the tax exception for employer provided healthcare one could argue that all money that funds them is public). That creates rent-seeking, the free market that the so called conservative thinks that exists.

    Besides that, Healthcare is not a market, is a matter of public good. A sick person is a potential health threat to the society.So, it´s not the best comparison to universities.

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  38. Just Me says:

    Unless I missed something, the author didn’t take into account the fact that at most major universities, about 70-80% of the undergraduate teaching is done by graduate students who get paid nothing or a pittance, which means that even less money goes to instruction than people would ordinarily assume.

    Do you have actual data for this claim?

    When I was in college the only classes taught by a graduate student were labs. All of my lectures and other classes were taught by professors with masters or doctorate level degrees (I attended a state university).

    My daughter attends a state university and all of her classes are taught by professors including the labs. She has additional classes for some of her classes (it is called recitation but it sort of the equivalent of a required study group for several math and science courses). The graduate assistants lead the recitation courses, and attend the labs, but they do not teach any of her classes.

    My guess is that your state may be true for some colleges and universities, but it likely isn’t universally true.

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  39. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    How, possibly, in any heterogeneous society, could the poorest 5% of workers be the ones “driving inflation?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. anjin-san says:

    Theres no doubt in my mind that compensation and perks for senior executives in the UC system are out of control – as well as the games they play to get around their own rules.

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  41. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    In our “neither fish nor fowl” health care “system” we have a great mixture of actors, resources, and motivations.

    There are for instance “full body imaging” companies which will sell their service to rich people, because hey, rich people can afford it and it serves some fear. Doctors will tell you that full body imaging for a healthy person probably does more harm than good. But it’s a market, in that segment, and it can be sold.

    You know, at the same time we have the “anyone can go to emergency” thing, and associated non-payment, etc.

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  42. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    The irony is, the single payer system would consume the tax dollars draining grant money from the university. This will leave them dependent on tuition from students for the product, a quality education, they are consistently undermining.

    How is that nations such as Switzerland, Norway, and all the advanced nations of Western Europe are able to provide high quality health care for all its citizens at a cost that is 30% to 50% less per capita than here in the United States?

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  43. anjin-san says:

    @ al-Ameda

    Simple. The Swiss are commies. They hate capitalism and they hate success.

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  44. wr says:

    @JKB: So, in a nutshell… minimum wage is bad, because a rise in it just leaves workers in the same place, so we should get rid of it and let employers offer a dime an hour. Employment-based healthcare is bad, but single payer is worse, so that leaves only the free market, which means the rich will get care and the poor will die. But if anyone points out the insanely obvious consequences to the positions you hold, you get all huffy and insist you’re being misunderstood.

    I suppose it’s possible that this is honest — that you are so blinded by ideology you simply refuse to consider the consequences of your desired policies. But I give you more credit than that. I think you know exactly what you’re proposing, and you don’t give a damn, because of all the people who will suffer terribly, none of them will be you.

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  45. JKB says:

    @wr:

    Well, this certainly does seem to be under your shell so I guess it is in a nutshell.

    The point is Congress or whoever cannot fix things with minimum wage. The only way to improve someone’s lot is through what we are talking about education and/or training. We could look at why the university has so far outpaced inflation in cost rise. The government subsidy has a lot to do with that, which drove the luxury facilities, and also the administrator bloat.

    As for health insurance, separating it out of compensation is completely different than various payer programs. One shouldn’t be trapped in a job due to health insurance risks and nor should you coworkers start to resent you because a family member is driving up their insurance rates due to a healthcare need. Separating health insurance and employment isn’t simple though. Let’s forego the Left’s fantasy that some employer should “provide health insurance” which is fantasy, it is compensation and so is part of the earned income from work. It means a huge wage increase as compensation that was health insurance is now paid in cash, plus the added cost of the tax deduction no longer available to the company. Then there will be the hue and cry as a lot of employees don’t buy health insurance with their “new found” pay but rather go on vacation or get a big screen TV. Which they will then claim ignorance when they need healthcare and have no insurance.

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  46. SC_Birdflyte says:

    The costs of pensions and healthcare are certainly major factors in escalating higher education costs – unless you are an adjunct (as I am). The only benefit I get is the ability to buy into the state retirement system (8% of my earnings off the top).

    The “we must upgrade our facilities” syndrome is also a significant contributor. As Moynihan’s phrase “defining deviancy down” goes, it starts with top-drawer schools trying to outdo each other, then it seeps down to second-rank and third-rank schools.

    As other commentators have noted, a good bit of administrative overhead growth is associated with different ways of shaking the collegiate money tree.

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  47. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    One thing not mentioned yet: a combination of two factors into a devil’s brew.

    1) Colleges charging “what the market will bear.” They keep raising costs because they can.

    2) The separation between the consumer of the service provided (the student) and the payer of the bill (the loan provider — now the federal government). The students don’t have to pay for their education when they get it, they get loans that many don’t bother to consider how they’ll pay them off. And there is little to no correlation between student loans and the fields of study, with an eye to how that debt will be paid off from future earnings.

    It’s a scam. Students are urged to get all the loans they want and pursue whatever educational goals they desire, with no emphasis placed on telling these young, maturing people that they WILL have to pay this back — and will, in all likelihood, have to keep paying it back for decades.

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  48. Just Me says:

    Students are urged to get all the loans they want and pursue whatever educational goals they desire, with no emphasis placed on telling these young, maturing people that they WILL have to pay this back — and will, in all likelihood, have to keep paying it back for decades.

    Just a note-but when students take out the Federally subsidized loans, they do have to read through the loan amount, the interest, extimated payment and time it will take to pay it off at that rate. They are given this information.

    That said what student’s are told by institutions is that it is worth it to take out the high loans because they will have a college degree and a great job. Now some fields may very well pay for that great job,but many won’t. This spiel is very typical of various liberal arts colleges I have visited with my daughters the last couple of years.

    Our society pushes college for all, pushes kids into taking loans and making them believe that no matter where they attend and what degree they get there is going to be a marvelous job waiting for them that will easily cover the costs of those loans.

    The other sad thing is that parents who do save towards their child’s college often can’t save enough to put a significant dent in the costs. The money my kids have in their accounts would have easily paid for a college education with room and board 20 years ago, now it doesn’t even cover a years worth.

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  49. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Guess you’re smarter than all of them — completely skipped the student loan trap by dropping out of high school. Good for you!

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  50. Rob McMillin says:

    @john personna:

    I think you just reached the ultimate defense against single-payer. It is the dark form of American exceptionalism.

    Wuzza?

    My argument is that no state-run system will reduce actual expenditures, full stop. We start from a very high cost point, and that is only going to get worse (which is, basically, the promise of Obamacare). Where in the chart I linked to above is per-capita expenditure growth negative? The other point to be made here is that quantity has a quality all its own, as Mao observed.

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  51. Tyrell says:

    @Andre Kenji: How is my shoulder problem a threat to society? Allergies ?

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  52. john personna says:

    @Rob McMillin:

    Other countries can do it, so can we. There is no “magic” that things can never get better, so we should never try.

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  53. grumpy realist says:

    @mattb: When I was at UIUC I don’t remember a single physics class in grad school that didn’t have some flunky (a.k.a. grad student) running around with a harrassed look in his (or her) face complaining about the grading workload. The only courses that didn’t come with overworked grad students attached were the very few “oh, you can write your own paper” courses.

    (I remember squawking to the Physics dean about the homework workload in one of the upper level classes on quantum statistics, pointing out that I was having to grade more than 200 pages of dense math each week. Dean went and bitched to professor. Professor grumbled, complied by a) cutting homework back to once every two weeks, but b) doubling the number of problems. This did however fix my problem, since at that point half of the students dropped the course….)

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