Mad about medical costs? Check out what’s happening in higher ed.

moneycountFrustration with the rising cost of health care gave politicians the ammo they needed to hang this ObamaCare monstrosity around our necks. While we’re all focused on that, we’re overlooking developments elsewhere that are also delivering a terrible beating to our wallets — namely the bureaucratic bloat in higher education: 

Americans worry incessantly about the inflation in medical costs—and with good reason. But what has escaped their notice is that the inflation in college and university costs has been even greater. Colleges and universities across the country have been raising tuition at a rate four times faster than the overall inflation rate. From 1978 to 2008, the cost of living doubled, and medical costs inflated roughly six-fold, but college tuition and fees saw a nearly ten-fold increase. Even after adjusting for financial aid, the amount families had to pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982. […] 

And, of course, the government is all too glad to step in and, um, “help”:

How do students afford these constant increases in college costs? The answer to that question is easy: credit. And lots of it—mainly from the government. In 2012-2014, student loans totaled $248 billion, with federal aid making up roughly $171 billion of that amount. The average debt of college seniors who graduated in 2012 was $29,400 in federal and private loans combined. Will all those students be able to pay? The evidence is not promising. The default rates in recent years have begun to climb upward toward 20 to 25 percent, boding ill for the future. And the consequences can be serious for those who default.

So why do consumers continue to tolerate these constant price increases so far in excess of the inflation rate? Perhaps it is because when such increases are announced, they are said to be needed to preserve or increase the “quality of instruction.” Indeed, the willingness to sacrifice for the education of their children is one of the deepest and most widely held values among America’s parents. But is instruction really where all the money is going?money board

Of course not. MORE:

In the ten years before our current economic collapse, public research universities ramped up spending on lawyers, senior-level administrators, and accountants at nearly twice the rate of expenditures on faculty and instruction. Thus, between 2002 and 2006, while the average tuition at public research universities increased by nearly 27 percent, spending on each student only went up by 1 percent. As an article in Inside Higher Education put it: “Most college students are carrying a greater share of the cost of their education, even as institutions spend less on teaching them . . . tuition hikes have resulted in little if any new spending on classroom instruction.”

A recent Goldwater Institute Report shows that schools are creating new administrative positions all the time.

Arizona State University, for example, increased the number of administrators per 100 students by 94 percent [between 1993 and 2007] while actually reducing the number of employees engaged in instruction, research and service by 2 percent. Nearly half of all full-time employees at Arizona State University are administrators.[…] 

That’s right.  Just as in K-12 public education, an awful lot of people who have next to no impact on what the students in the classroom are learning are getting hired and making out like bandits.  Check it out:

[…] What do all these new bureaucrats do? Well, according to that same report:student debt

Included in this category are all employees holding titles such as business operations specialists; buyers and purchasing agents; human resources, training, and labor relations specialists; management analysts; meeting and convention planners; miscellaneous business operations specialists; financial specialists; accountants and auditors; budget analysts; financial analysts and advisors; financial examiners; loan counselors and officers; [etc.].

In short, they engage in all manner of activities, none of which has anything to do with teaching. The number of employees engaged in the most traditional faculty support—clerical work, like that of the tried-and-true full-time departmental secretary—has actually been decreasing, even as the number of mid-level bureaucrats to which faculty report has been increasing. America’s universities now have “more full-time employees devoted to administration than to instruction, research and service combined.”

Soaring Administrative Salaries

Of course, “administrators” are always supposed to make more than mere laborers, and faculty are increasingly seen as “the labor” by top administrators. As a result, even though the rate of increase in pay for faculty has barely kept pace with inflation, the pay for administrators has skyrocketed. The median salary for college and university presidents at institutions of all types is now $370,940. The median at doctoral institutions is nearly $100,000 more, coming in at $465,618. December 2014 figures show that thirty-six private university presidents are now paid in excess of a million dollars per year, and another twelve make more than $900,000 per year. Altogether, there are now 106 private university presidents making over $500,000 per year.

Salaries are somewhat smaller further down the administrative pecking order, but the sheer volume of the list of bureaucrats is dazzling. Here is a partial list, with the median salaries at doctoral institutions:

Chief Business Officer: $250,000

Chief Athletics Administrator: $238,736shake

Chief Development/Advancement Officer” $248,373

Chief Enrollment Management Officer: $171,652

Chief Extension/Engagement Officer: $198,430

Chief External Affairs Officer: $200,069

Chief Human Resources Officer: $158,750

Chief Information/IT Officer: $208,959

Chief Student Affairs/Life Officer: $202,995

The list goes on and on—Chief Audit Officer ($129,480), Chief Health Affairs Officer ($539,537), Chief Institutional Planning Officer ($187,733), Chief Institutional Research Officer ($118,418)—and we haven’t reached anyone who deals with actual academics yet.

Of course, each of these important officials couldn’t be expected to do his or her crucial work without a sufficient staff. When a friend of mine began working at his major mid-western research university years ago, the dean’s office was a single room on the first floor of the classroom building. The dean and his attendants now occupy a whole suite of offices that extend down the hall and takes up a large portion of the floor. In earlier days, the dean had one secretary. His staff now numbers over forty.

So how about those who actually do the teaching? What was the median salary for, let us say, a tenure-track Associate Professor in English last year? Answer: $64,009. How about the median for an Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences? $72,104. In Mathematics? $68,510. Teaching students reading, writing, science, and mathematics is simply not as important in the modern university, it seems, as doing whatever it is a “Chief Extension/Engagement Officer” does. […] 

The left in North Carolina has railed against “education cuts.” They’re going after the UNC Board of Governors and the GOP-controlled legislature for allegedly “starving”  our university system.

It’s easy for statists to rail against doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.  But what about the elitists in the academic ivory towers?  Our current president is a former academic.  The college faculty crowd — with its indoctrination and fundraising prowess — is very, very good to the statist cause.  So, they get by with a wink and a nod.  And average Americans keep paying through the nose. 

3 thoughts on “Mad about medical costs? Check out what’s happening in higher ed.

  1. The sad part about this scenario is that many of my generation the baby boomers got a quality education at a reasonable cost and were able to land jobs with starting salaries to defray the cost. Unlike today those same students will owe twice as much as the entry level jobs. The far left liberals were not teaching en masse as today. I am thankful that my 2 children went off to college and saw the handwriting on the wall and came home and sought careers that did not require the high cost of education and the debt. The public schools are still trying to encourage everyone to seek a college degree but only a small percentage are able to find a job in the field that their choice of degrees requires or it is taking years in some form of employment that is not what they want or love doing. Institutions are pricing themselves out of the market for the middle and lower class families. When are these liberals going to wake up and think more about the next generation than their protected tenures and demands?

  2. The liberals always scoff when I say this, but the higher education industry is the perfect example of what happens when government gets involved. You get a much higher priced product, there is a limited supply, and the product is inferior. The government got involved with all these grants and loans the same way it got involved with medical costs and we see the skyrocketing costs.

Comments are closed.