Must-reading from the Wall Street Journal. Richard Vedder: “The Real Reason College Costs So Much. The expert on the economics of higher education explains how subsidies fuel rising prices and why there’s a ‘bubble’ in student loans and college enrollment.”
Some quotes and commentary follow (I’ve had a busy few days, so these will be telegraphic).
“The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.”
Is that all?
Quick: how many people are employed in the various “diversity” and “multicultural” programs at your college? Veder says, “My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally.” A sustainability coordinator!
Stanford offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare.
Anybody want to bet against this ratio increasing?
Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall…The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.
And don’t forget all those gorgeous gymnasiums and juice bars, places which now take up more real estate than libraries. Excuse me: learning centers, books rapidly becoming passé.
Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.
Hey. These guys have to teach as many as two classes a year. Plus they need somewhere they can stay during summers and sabbaticals. Would you have administrators and professors camp in the street?
Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.
When you don’t know how much something costs you’ll pay anything. The cost of the thing will then inexorably increase. Two cases: health “insurance” and college tuition.
The government has created a negative feedback mechanism to ensure its own growth and survival. It subsidizes and encourages participation, all of which serve to increase costs, which produces calls for more subsidization and greater participation (in the interest of “fairness”). People come to think it is only Government which can save them. Especially when they think they don’t have to pay.
And did you hear? The government wants to tie federal aid to graduation rates. What could go wrong? The Doctrine of Unexpected Consequences, that’s what:
“I can tell you right now, having taught at universities forever, that universities will do everything they can to get students to graduate,” he chuckles. “If you think we have grade inflation now, you ought to think what will happen. If you breathe into a mirror and it fogs up, you’ll get an A.”
As we’ve noted before: there are too many kids going to college who shouldn’t be there and there are too many professors having to teach. Again, the problem is government money. It floods the system and taints everything it touches. You can’t let government pick (all) research to fund else it turns into “Research for everybody!”
The professoriate has been trained and turned into an machine which petitions government for money. Only part of the money they win is used for research and teaching. A great chunk of it goes to the administration to pay for special projects, all of which have turned universities into corporations. Which don’t have to pay tax.
Mr. Vedder says…government won’t do the innovating. “First of all, the Department of Education, to use K-12 as an example, has been littered with demonstration projects, innovation projects, proposals for new ways to do things for decades. And what has come out? Are American students learning any more today than a generation ago? Are they doing so at lower cost than a generation ago? No.”
Like all bubbles there is no fix, no solution. It has to pop, collapse of its own weight, and the structure rebuilt from what’s left standing.
Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000-a-year chief diversity officer. Among its 16 deans and 11 vice presidents are a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief. The average full professor at the public university in West Lafayette, Ind., makes $125,000.