One key to ballooning higher-ed costs? Administrative bloat
The Kansas City Star
The Star’s editorial board is visited occasionally by top leaders from area universities, and the question always comes up: Why is tuition rising so fast? Usually you hear that this is because costs are rising and state funding hasn’t kept up.
That may be true as far as it goes, but this is something of a diversionary tactic — and a reminder that many people in the public sector suffer from a kind of tunnel vision. They can only see one part of the problem — the revenue side. They’ll say costs have gone up, and they’re right. But to a great extent, they’ve gone up because the university MADE them go up.
Take Timothy Sands, acting President of Purdue, the public university in Indiana. In a recent Business Week story he denies that tuition has gone up because of bureaucratic expansion. No: The problem is lagging state funding. The state pays 13 percent of Purdue’s budget, but it hasn’t kept up with costs.
But now look at the cost side of the ledger. Purdue has an acting provost who’s paid $313,000 and six vice and associate provosts and a diversity officer paid nearly $200,000. In the last decade, Purdue’s administrator ranks have grown by 54 percent, nearly 800 percent faster than the number of tenured or tenure-track faculty.
Business Week quotes a Department of Education study showing that Purdue is hardly alone. From 1993 to 2009, the number of administrators has grown by 60 percent at universities across the nation. That’s 10 times the growth of tenured faculty.
You see something similar in K-12 education. From 1950 to 2009, the student population grew by 96 percent, according to a study by the Friedman foundation. At the same time, the number of full-time equivalent school employees grew by 386 percent. Teacher numbers were up 252 percent, and administrator numbers up by 702 percent.
If you’re looking for remedies for the problem of skyrocketing college tuition, at good start would be administrative bloat and the higher costs that come with it.