Why Has College Tuition Risen so Much? Ask the Administrators, Whose Ranks Have Grown 84% Since 1989


Via Instapundit comes this Investors Business Daily report on the metastization of college and university administrators over the past 20 or so years.

An IBD analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 1989-2009 the number of administrative personnel at four- and two-year institutions grew 84%, from about 543,000 to over 1 million.

By contrast, the number of faculty increased 75%, from 824,000 to 1.4 million, while student enrollment grew 51%, from 13.5 million to 20.4 million.

The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

Administrative personnel are employees who are not engaged in instruction and research. The jobs range from university president and provost to accountants, social workers, computer analysts and music directors.

One observer notes that the rise in administrative types is fueled at least partly by where the money for college comes from: "In order to comply with the government's requirements, colleges need to employ a staff that is responsible for providing the multiple state and federal agencies with compliance reports and data."

Whole thing here.

This report tracks with a more-specific study spearheaded by researcher Jay Greene, whose team looked specifically at research universities and found

Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America's leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent. Arizona State University, for example, increased the number of administrators per 100 students by 94 percent during this period 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.

Read more about that here.

Back in 2009, on the heels of a report that showed fewer than 50 percent of incoming freshmen gradjiate after six years, made the case against make higher education an entitlement:

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  1. I’m impressed. It takes mad bureaucratic skills to lower productivity in an information dissemination industry in the information age.

  2. Government money creates positions for people dedicated to maximizing capture of government money?

    I’m completely taken aback.

  3. When I graduated in 1974 I didn’t owe a cent. There were no student loans in those days.

    1. My dad paid for his college by working on a farm near my grandparents’ cottage during the summer. Twenty-something years later I could barely pay for my books with what I earned during my summer job.

  4. Considering that I paid one fifth of the tuition charged today at a state school in Florida (a state that historically has had lower tuition), I have long questioned what they’ve been spending all that money on. Looks like the students receive pretty much the same education, with, if anything, more core courses offered outside the classroom.

    Paying more for the same or even less–how does that make sense for the consumer? Who and what are we subsidizing, since it isn’t education? Does the answer to this also explain why the hundreds of billions poured into K-12 education haven’t done much good, either?

    1. It does lead you to wonder if schools under the Friedman voucher system would eventually suffer the same fate that higher education schools have. Higher education is more or less a collection of public & private facilities, much the same as the system that would evolve under voucherization of primary education. In either case, the heavy influence of Federal and State dollars and regulations would undermine the natural market price efficiency mechanism.

    2. It makes sense in that it’s a scam, and damn if it isn’t a profitable scam. I remember being stunned, in my youth and naivete, at the waste and uselessness of many employees in private companies; public sector waste is beyond comprehension. These people don’t just do nothing; in order to justify their jobs, they actively retard other people. Bureaucracy in its most disgusting form.

      We’re past the tipping point; there are too many parasites sucking on the host.

      1. in order to justify their jobs, they actively retard other people

        It is a regulator’s job to regulate.
        What kind of regulator says “Yes” to people?
        Where’s the fun in that?
        You take the job because it gives you POWER.
        Now you can say “No” when someone wants to do something that would create wealth, jobs, and add to the economy.
        You can make them do it your way, even though they are the one with the idea and who are taking all the risk. You don’t have any ideas. You never take on risks.
        That’s why you work for government.

        1. This is like the lead-in on a awesome 90’s era PC game.

          “That’s why you work for government.”

          *cue midi score*

            1. Well, sort of. The game at that link is from the prole’s POV.

            2. That is absolutely brilliant. I would love if that was actually available. Looks like it was just a limited art thing.

              1. Download the “Print and Play” version here.

            3. aside from being nothing like what I was imagining, yeah, same exact thing.

              1. You’ll take what you can get, comrade. Or else!

      2. It’s hard not to view things that way. I can’t find any other explanation that accounts for all of the increase.

        1. The waste is unimaginable. Between unfireable employees, hare-brained teaching fads, vanity projects, unfunded mandates from retarded state senators and the most perverse examples of the Peter Principle I’ve ever seen, I’m surprised this place doesn’t just explode randomly.

          1. The weird thing is that people I’ve worked with and interviewed with remind me of the people I worked with in the private sector. Competence is required, production is valued, and those who can’t deal with these concepts are eased out.

            1. If they can be eased out. I could go cut a million in salaries right now of people whose loss would not effect my library one whit. I don’t even work in the main library, and I could save 500K just fire a few people within a 100 yards of me.

              1. Also, the women I work with are substantially more attractive than the ones you describe.

                Come to think of it, those two things may be related.

        2. It would be very interesting to do a complete audit on a random university department; what each employee does, what they’ve done in the last six months, what use that is, etc. I guarantee you it would show waste beyond your wildest dreams and produce a stampede-like panic in those being audited.

          Because they know they do nothing. They know, but they’re parasites.

          1. If the Censors existed, they’d do audits like that and use their removal powers to remove, remove, and further remove.

            1. At least at government institutions.

            2. ProL, you really need to stop fantasizing about something that isn’t going to happen. I of course am referring to you getting together with Yvonne Strahovski.

              1. Nah, I’m happily married and don’t even know who she is.

                I know the Censor will not happen as the world currently operates. Even if it did, we humans would fuck it up. That’s what we do.

                1. That’s fine that you’re happily married, but not knowing who she is is some kind of crime.

                  1. The only connection I have with her is that she was a character in Mass Effect 2.

                  2. I am so old and useless. Even with the photo, I don’t know who she is.

                    1. She’s just a fuck-tube

          2. “So what is it you DO here?”

            “Look I told you, I deal with the goddamn students so the deans don’t have to. I have people skills! I am good at working with people! Can’t you understand that?!! What the hell is wrong with you people?!”

        3. How many institutions had diversity counsellers, diversity coordinators, ADA compliance officers, etc in 1975? All of these are administratively intensive. Statute compliance creates administration. Too many laws.

          1. There’s something to that. Thirty years ago, there wasn’t a human resources department. There was a little old lady called Personnel. She worked part time.

          2. This is my thought. They probably also have administrators in charge of women, gays, and the environment. It can’t account for all the bloat, but I suspect it’s a chunk of it.

            1. And a staff in charge of suppressing unmutual speech.

      3. We’re past the tipping point; there are too many parasites sucking on the host.

        I agree. In my family, of the 6 children in the generation after mine who are past high school only one works for a private company. One is in the Army, two are “social workers” working for DHS, with corresponding idiot degrees, and the other two are public school teachers.

  5. Paying more for the same or even less–how does that make sense for the consumer?

    It makes you wonder; how is it that the “intellectual leaders” of the country have completely missed out on the productivity revolution which has taken place in the world?

    They might not be as smart as they’d like us to believe.

  6. Someone has to hire all those PhDs in gender/ethnic studies.

  7. The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

    In other words: Universities and colleges have been nothing more than employment agencies for professors and PhD’s who would otherwise starve in the streets due to a lack of actual, marketable skills.

    Thank the FED for that, by the way.

    1. Mises made the same argument long ago. Intellectuals and their works have very little value to the public at large, but their theories and arguments validate the machinations of the political class and as such they feed off eat other in publicly funded education.

  8. As someone that has worked in academic research, I can say government funding and growth of administration are directly related. 20 years ago you had some government created administrator positions (financial aid), now you can have grant writers, grant administrators, small research labs (5 people – PI + 4 post docs/techs) now have managers to deal with paperwork,… Government money always has strings, strings require administrators.

    1. We would not want any of the money being spent on the 10,000 study of fruit fly mating habits to be wasted.

  9. “In order to comply with the government’s requirements, colleges need to employ a staff that is responsible for providing the multiple state and federal agencies with compliance reports and data.”

    See? Government can create jobs!
    Ignore the fact that these jobs create nothing of value which makes them destroyers of wealth in the form of higher costs for the same education…. they’re jobs!

  10. Everything else has become unaffordable so why not college?

  11. Dopn’t forget Rock Climbing Wall Technician, Rock Climbing Wall Technical Supervisor, Ombudsman of Rock Climbing Affairs, Rock Climbing Community Liaison, and Rock Climbing Wall Procurement Officer.

  12. Parkinson’s Law is proven yet again!

    1. Frank and Ethel are a cute pair of old people. A widower and a widow, they take comfort sharing time together. Every Wednesday they meet at a local park bench and Ethel discretely holds Frank’s penis. She doesn’t do anything with it. He is ancient after all.

      One day Ethel goes to the bench and Frank is not there. Same thing the next week. She figures he’s passed on.

      Then to her surprise she walks past the bench and Frank is there with another woman!

      Ethel is indignant!

      She demands “Frank! What does she have that I don’t have?”

      Frank smiles and replies “Parkinson’s.”

  13. College administrators, the unsung bureaucrats of higher education.

  14. I’m fortunate to teach at a small, private college without a heavy administrative load. We seem to stumble by without an Office of Diversity, or even so much as a gender studies degree offering. We do seem to have an abundance of religious outreach and activity staff, but that’s part of the core mission of the college.

    There are a great number of hoops to jump through in the name of federal compliance. We must develop layer upon layer of assessment plans, submit “artifacts” from our classes that correspond with assessment learning goals, and a heaping helping of other non-education related make-work that diverts our attention from excellence in the classroom.

    But it’s for the children. Won’t someone please think of them?

    1. I’m surprised more colleges don’t take the Hillsdale route.

      1. I’m not surprised. The federal government is the biggest supplier of student funds…to cut that supply limits your universe of potential students.

  15. Well, if we don’t have a lot of administrators, who will kick out students when they make fun of the Feminist and Gender studies department?

    Y’know, like what happened at my alma mater, The Colorado College?

    1. Thank God you didn’t go to just A Colorado College.

    2. Something tells me that hockey players who made fun of the Feminist and Gender Studies department got a pass…

      1. So, a fellow alumni then?

  16. Part of the reason for an increased administrative staff is that you can’t fire anyone. At some point they wind up hiring 5 workers in the hopes that one of them might actually do the work that needs to be done.

  17. Wait a second, gang. There’s some economics fail going on up in this bitch. Why are we assuming that administrative bloat is a cause of increased tuition, rather than one of its effects?

    The price of tuition, like anything else, is determined by what customers are willing to pay for it. And the market-clearing price for education is influenced by, among other things, easy government money. Subsidize anything and its total price actually goes up.

    Cash is flowing in to universities because people who want to go to college can spend other people’s money to get it. Once the money is in Ivy League State’s coffers, the administration is free to blow it on pointless overhead, like diversity deans. But the diversity dean came second, after the money was there. If a university incurred more overhead expenses and tried to jack up tuition to justify it, students would go elsewhere. It’s t’other way ’round: students are paying more than they should for college because they’re paying with subsidized loans, and the universities can spend this money on administrative bloat.

    Let’s say that Ivy League State hires an assload of diversity consultants and

    1. Ack, ignore that last line. Preview is my friend.

      1. But I already read the last line. Now I can’t get it out of my head!

      2. Keep both hands on the keyboard and you have fewer problems.

  18. And every apparatchik must have assistants, many of whom will be minority quota hires.

    Thus, the octopus feeds itself on your wallet.

  19. Colleges are following their own propaganda that the college educated are the best paid.

    So since colleges have the highest percentage of college educated then they should be paid well and there for colleges cost a lot of money. Especially since you can’t have the employees of colleges to be mere college graduates, they must be Master and Doctors which obviously deserve to be paid a premium over mere college graduates.

    Whether or not these colleges are actually providing services corresponding to their income is irrelevant since the mere fact that they are full of higher education employees demands that they be paid at a high level. Even if the employee could not pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heal the are still college graduates and very probably having a Masters or Doctorate and so they both deserve a job and a good salary.

  20. I was at Penn State a few weeks ago to pick up my kids from sports camp. In the dorm they were using was a entire wall full of middle-aged people who worked IN THAT DORM as professional counselors. That explained much to me.

    When I went to college, the Freshmen dorm had a Junior Advisor on each floor. After that, you were on your own. These are supposed to be adults, right? Why would I pay for these drones to nag my kids?

    1. My entire Freshman indoctrination came in the form of a speech from a pretty grad assistant who reminded us that people only do 2 things in their bedroom, neither of which is study, so find a library to study in. Add to that that I saw my RA for checkin and checkout, and it was a fine and middle-aged drone free experience.

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