Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has been leading the charge against administrative bloat and wasteful spending on college campuses over the past few years, and he’s at it again with an excellent new piece at USA Today. He argues that the rise in administrative costs has been driving much of the tuition increases over the past few decades, noting that the student to professional staff ratio has fallen by over 50 percent since 1975. Reynolds has some good ideas to reverse the trend:
When asked what single step would do the most good, I’ve often responded semi-jokingly that U.S. News and World Report should adjust its college-ranking formula to reward schools with low costs and lean administrator-to-student ratios. But that’s not really a joke. Given schools’ exquisite sensitivity to the U.S. News rankings, that step would probably have more impact than most imaginable government regulations. […]Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., among others, are promoting legislation to claw back financial aid from schools that have too many graduates who are unable to pay their student loans, which would provide some incentive to keep tuition, and student indebtedness down. (I have proposed something similar, making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy after a number of years, as they used to be, but leaving the schools on the hook for a percentage of the discharged debt. That would provide a greater incentive.)But the biggest challenges facing overpriced and bloated institutions will come from technology and the market. With lower-priced alternatives appearing online just as buyer resistance to increased tuition is taking off, colleges must adapt.
In the past month alone, two separate studies have confirmed that administrative hiring has skyrocketed over the past few decades and has contributed significantly to the rise in tuition. Policymakers and college presidents need to begin thinking thinking about how to change course, and fast. This would be a good place to start. Read the whole thing.