I think this opinion piece by Paul F. Campos in the New York Times is worth noting because it agrees with things I’ve said here very recently and, like most of us, I tend to think that people who agree with me are very wise. To be fair, the points Campos makes on why college tuition is getting to be so expensive are not so much a matter of opinion as observation. Many have noted the same things, but they bear repeating.
1. College administrators claim that tuition keeps going up because government funding for higher ed is in free fall; however, this is not particularly true. Campos writes: “In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s.”
2. Administrators are reluctant to acknowledge what’s really driving up the cost of higher education because it’s partly the grandiose spending projects they like to undertake and partly the fact that administrators serve to make more administrators.
By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.
Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.
Big State U. is now quite often packed to the rafters with what Benjamin Ginsberg called an army of deanlets and deanlings, not to mention Directors of Digital Marketing and Student Goodtimes, and whatever else can be dreamt of in the “market” philosophy. Not only are these admins quite a bit more expensive than the part time “gypsy faculty” actually teaching the courses- Campos notes the striking “recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators”; they also have “tenure” in the sense of ongoing and continuous employment even as money becomes harder to extract from states and parents- something, one notes, a majority of university instructors do not have. Finally, they are true “radicals” in the sense of radically remaking the American university in the vision of a client-service model, four year luxury resort booze cruise with industry certification at the end.
So, first, we fire all of the administrators…
Update: Thanks to Zic for sharing Academe Blog checking Campos’s math and finding problems.