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Mitch Daniels Battles the Campus Bureaucracy at Purdue

Since taking the job last year, Daniels has been fighting the good fight against bureaucratic bloat.

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Those who have closely studied soaring tuition rates at public universities know that administrators' ballooning salaries are the real culprit, not the cost of instruction. While faculty employment levels have generally remained flat in recent years, universities have continued to hire more and more administrators. Purdue University, for example, has grown the campus bureaucracy by 75 percent in the last 13 years.

That fact comes from a recent Wall Street Journal profile of former Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is now the president of Purdue. Since taking the job last year, Daniels has been fighting the good fight against bureaucratic bloat. His results are probably as good or better than any other tuition-conscious university president, though the structural barriers are massive:

Mr. Daniels cut millions from state higher education as governor, but millions more pay for the administrative salaries that have ballooned at Purdue, along with most universities around the country. At Purdue, there are now 75% more administrators and staff on the payroll than there were 13 years ago.

J. Paul Robinson, a former president of the faculty senate, said Mr. Daniels's worth as a leader will be tied to his ability to prune that administrative bloat. "Let me put it this way," Mr. Robinson said: "A blind man on a galloping horse at midnight with sunglasses on can see the problem. The question is, What can he do about it?"

Mr. Daniels says he is consolidating administrative jobs where prudent and leaving jobs unfilled where the duplication of effort makes that possible. He has jettisoned 10 university cars, consolidated hundreds of thousands of feet of off-campus rental storage and introduced a higher-deductible health-care plan.

He has also frozen tuition rates:

And by freezing tuition, he is forcing his own school to modernize its 19th-century business model with a combination of systemic cuts, organizational realignments and cash incentives.

"This place was not built to be efficient," Mr. Daniels said when asked about the structural changes he was making at Purdue. But "you're not going to find many places where you just take a cleaver and hack off a big piece of fat. Just like a cow, it's marbled through the whole enterprise."

The bottom line is this: Universities can't have it both ways. They can't provide an affordable education to middle class and low-income families while also hiring a bajillion more residential advisors, vice presidents of sustainability, diversity coordinators, and other paper pushers who never set foot near a classroom.

Many Democratic politicians who claim to sympathize with the suffering students, such as President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, believe the best way keep college affordable is to loan students a bunch of money on the taxpayer's dime and then forgive their debts —so long as they find their way into government service. But that doesn't actually keep costs down; it merely tricks students into thinking they can manage.

The best method for preventing tuition increases is actually much simpler: University presidents and regents need to stop raising tuition to cover non-educational nonsense. Kudos to Daniels for understanding that, daunting though the challenge may be.

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  1. While faculty employment levels have generally remained flat in recent years, universities have continued to hire more and more administrators.

    What’s more important for an education than an added layer of bureaucracy to adjudicate thought crime?

  2. …you’re not going to find many places where you just take a cleaver and hack off a big piece of fat.

    When a business finds its cost structure is too high, they start hacking. Departments, layers, whatever. The people left are expected to figure out how to get things done with what they have.

    1. You can’t figure out which departments in your multi-tiered, sprawling bureaucracy aren’t contributing to your company’s financial wellbeing? Fine; cut 10% across the board every year until you’re solvent.

      1. When you have to get rid of a dean-let in the purge make the bottom two deans fight to keep there jobs. Video it and put it on youtube.

        Academic bum-fights!

        1. I prefer to hold tryouts.

          1. Watched that again over the weekend. I don’t think college administrators are bright enough to understand the tryout aspect. They just aren’t used to competing. Two enter, one leaves, they may be able to get through their pointy little heads.

            1. I don’t think college administrators are bright enough to understand the tryout aspect. They just aren’t used to competing.

              Poppycock. When there are openings for such positions, the competition is fierce and the politicking is ruthless. My institution recently had an opening for Dean of Education. Out of a pool of 300 applicants, much blood was shed to whittle it down to two. Those two were then forced to undergo a gauntlet of ass-kissing, glad-handing, and backstabbing before the school finally settled on the winner.

              1. What I’m hearing is that the people who want to be Deans are well suited for the Gladiator Ring or Thunderdome.

                I would pay cash money to see this on pay-per-view.

  3. A blind man on a galloping horse at midnight with sunglasses on can see the problem.

    This is so ableist I can’t even. YOU’RE THE REASON WHY WE NEED DIVERSITY STAFF.

    1. Ableist.
      Specieist.
      Nocturnalist.
      Ocularist.

      1. Titleist!

        1. You labelist scum make me sick.

    2. No, we need diversity staff to provide jobs for our otherwise-unemployable gender studies majors.

  4. schools will just rejigger titles & duties so that, once a semester, each useless staffer helps ‘team teach’ a seminar on feminist diversity microtrigger consciousness or whatever claptrap jargon. Then, cost cutters will be firing ‘teachers’ & leftists can make political hay in NY, rasing vast money to fight against those ‘anti-education conservatives’ who want to go back to the a dark ages of public illiteracy and continue waging their murderous war v. women….

    1. Schools will just WHAT!?

      Jigger, please…

  5. The ACA requires insurance companies to spend at least 85% of premium revenue on medical care. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. Require any institution that has students that are getting federal loans to spend 85% on “instruction.” Otherwise, no student loans. Since the administrative elites think that is such a good solution for medical care, see how they like it for education.

    1. But that’s different…

    2. Require any institution that has students that are getting federal loans to spend 85% on “instruction.” Otherwise, no student loans.

      That’s a brilliant idea. Letters to Congressmen asking them to propose a bill of this sort should be sent forthwith.

    3. Why doesn’t Harvard pay a fair share of taxes from their endowment? I bet that endowment is taxed less than Buffett’s secretary.

      1. I bet that endowment is taxed less than Timmy “TurboTax” Geithner and President “Most Transparent Administration Evah” Obama.

  6. …you’re not going to find many places where you just take a cleaver and hack off a big piece of fat.

    I’d have to see pics to believe that.

  7. Many Democratic politicians who claim to sympathize with the suffering students, such as President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, believe the best way keep college affordable is to loan students a bunch of money on the taxpayer’s dime and then forgive their debts ?so long as they find their way into government service. But that doesn’t actually keep costs down; it merely tricks students into thinking they can manage.

    “Innovation” is nice in theory, but we’re talking about a tried and true model handed down through the ages.

    What do a bunch of semi-literate peasants know, compared to Harvard’s finest minds?

    1. Forgiving their debts, provided they join the State and vote Democrat, is robbing us to recruit more people into becoming leeches sucking the blood out of our beings. They are like vampires converting humans into more vampires.

  8. Marginal return is just a myth perpetuated by the Kkkochtopus so they can steal the labor of the working man.

  9. Here in Indiana the same people who hated Daniels as governor will go on and on about how he’s “ruining Purdue.” Of course, without any clue about what he’s actually doing there.

    1. If Purdue doesn’t like it, they can drum him out.

  10. Hey Mitch, if you really are serious, how about denying admission to students who finance their education via government loan or subsidy?

    1. Serious about what? The position you imagine he is taking?

  11. His results are probably as good or better than any other tuition-conscious university president

    Yo, you need an another “as” in there to save the grammar: “His results are probably as good as or better than any other tuition-conscious university president”

  12. It’s the accreditation racket, stupid. That’s what the administrators are hired for; to fill out the thousands of forms the career bureaucrats demand to qualify for government goodies.

    1. ^This^ After all, in the age of the internet, what could be more important to educational excellence than to have someone count exactly how many books you have in your library?

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