The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
College Tosses Baby, Hoards Bathwater?

For three decades the rising cost of attending American colleges has far outpaced inflation. As this higher education bubble continues to inflate, a university degree, which used to be a ticket into the middle class, is increasingly coming to resemble a ticket to decades of debt. And what are students, whose loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, getting in exchange for a lifetime of financial servitude? According to Michael Barone, an educational experience that’s increasingly light on hard sciences and heavy on diversity specialists:

The University of California system has been raising tuitions and cutting departments. But, reports John Leo in the invaluable Minding the Campus blog, its San Diego campus found the money to create a new post of “vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.”

That’s in addition to what the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald calls its “already massive diversity apparatus.” It takes Mac Donald 103 words just to list the titles of UCSD’s diversitycrats.

The money for the new vice chancellorship could have supported two of the three cancer researchers that the campus lost to Rice University in Houston, a private school that apparently takes the strange view that hard science is more important than diversity facilitators.

Crushing debt, dismal job prospects and the delay of important adult milestones such as buying a home and starting a family are the logical outgrowth of a system that sets its priorities this way. Nor is it just our students who are suffering; the economy as a whole is being dragged down by the failure to equip the next generation to compete in a workforce environment that their grandparents, and increasingly even their parents, don’t recognize anymore.

No doubt there are those who disagree, but new vice chancellors for diversity and inclusion (or for anything else for that matter, vice chancellors for saving money and cutting unnecessary costs exempted) should only be created when all other costs are safely under control and no serious cutbacks are being made to core academic departments.  One consequence of the academic cost squeeze now under way is that more and more people (students, parents, taxpayers, legislators) are going to start looking under the hood to see just why the engine is running so poorly and getting such bad gas mileage. As that happens, a lot of the academy’s most cherished ideas are going to come under intense political and economic threat.

There isn’t any money for all the bells and whistles that administrators would like to add to their bureaucracies. They are going to have to do more with less. They won’t like it, but that won’t matter. Change is coming to higher ed, much faster than most administrators think.

Published on April 5, 2012 5:00 pm
  • http://bloggingpriest.blogspot.com Tom Sramek Jr

    It also strikes me as hugely ironic that the more expensive the cost to students, the less diverse the student body is likely to be. So, in creating this position, UCSD may end up being less equal, diverse, and inclsive–since only the upper class will be able to afford to go there!

  • Retail Lawyer

    Affirmative Action was made illegal in California with the passage of Proposition 209. UC is attempting to circumvent those restrictions with some sort of “holistic” admissions policy that they claim is better, but more expensive to administer. So they need to bolster their diversity staff. Adding insult to injury!

  • WigWag

    Finally a Via Media post that I thought I could completely agree with but alas the post is only 99 percent correct. Just about everything the Mead team says about higher education is perfectly right. What is the only small mistake you?

    The only error is quoting Michael Barone as if he’s some kind of expert while in reality he is the quintessential main stream media hack.

    Or is he the quintessential lame-stream media hack?

  • Gary Hemminger

    I have been asking myself why higher education and environmental organizations tend to be dominated by Blue thinking. I think there may be a common factor involved in that they are heavily insulated from the real world and don’t have to deal with the normal trade-offs that real world organizations are faced with. They come up with their Global Carbon Treaty ideas that simply won’t fly in the real world. They push diversity programs rather than real world educational solutions because they never have had to do a return on investment analysis before. As long as it is someone else have to bear the cost, they never really have to justify their investments. They, like the media, see the gritty side of the world and simply think the Blue model is the answer, without ever having to deal with the actual trade-offs and cost analysis that those involved in the real world have to make. These organizations only see the benefit side of the Blue model,never the cost side. Now, all of a sudden, the massive Blue investment costs are coming due, and the returns simply aren’t there. Unless these groups start to do the cost-benefit analysis, more money will go down the rat hole.

  • Kris

    WigWag@3: “Finally a Via Media post that I thought I could completely agree with but alas the post is only 99 percent correct.”

    My assumption is that Team Meadia threw in Michael Barone just to give you something to alack about. Otherwise, your day would be incomplete. :-)

  • Walter Grumpius

    Unless and until whites and jews are statistically disaggregated in the educational sphere, so that “diversity” necessarily comes to mean “fewer jews,” nothing much will really change. And if nothing changes, then the so-called “hostile elites” (hmm who might that denote?) will simply become even more smug, more arrogant, more aggressive and more, well, hostile.

    #4 that’s hilarious, “why higher education… dominated by Blue thinking.” Well, check the levels at which it’s dominated not so much by “Blue” thinking but by J thinking.

    An interesting research project: track the ever-increasing levels of jewish leadership and membership at all levels of academia throughout each decade of the 20th century, and correlate it with various other social, political and economic trends. I could name a few trends to start out with, but I’ll let your own intellects run with it for a bit.

    Prediction: either WRM chooses not to run this remark, or if he does, it’s accompanied by belittling, heavily editorializing side commentary.

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    Dang it! I AM Grandpa and I bloody well understand the workforce environment! It’s my grandkids who don’t! They have not a clue that the blue road is just a well signed on ramp that ends abruptly and will drop them into an abyss of debt. My son understands. He employs people all over the world via the net in his ‘one man’ web service operation. These people work for him in places like Romania and India also understand the workforce environment. He hires them for one reason only – they can do some of the things that need to get done in his business better and cheaper than he can himself.

    That old scalawag Osho used to tell the story about the scientists who were asked to investigate a road sign with the words New York on it. After taking it back to their laboratories they announced that they could find no New York in it. Likewise when we investigate qualifications we cannot find quality in them. We have confused the symbol with the thing. Suddenly on the Net it is a lot like 4000BC when there were no qualifications – only what you could do to prove yourself.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    Walter,

    I see the Jews have outsmarted you again. Tough luck buddy.

  • EvilBuzzard

    From an economic perspective, the university system increasingly exists to bring in funding rather than educate. The four Freshman ballers who will leave UK after 1 year and 1 trophy will bring Kentucky far more revenue from royalties off of TV highlights and jersey sales than a Nobel Prize winner Chemistry Prof.

  • tyree

    As an Architect, I attended a UCSB Conference on Energy Efficiency. A lot of it was usefuf, even scientific in parts. However, one speaker ruined the experience by declaring that the “diversity of our population” would be the key to solving global warming. Not nuclear power, not solar panels, not insulation, not energy collected from orbit and beamed to earth bouand stations. No, the key was to make sure the researchers had to right mix of skin tones.

  • BillH

    @3. Wig – It’s good to see someone like you assert that the MSM now consists of The Examiner, Fox News and similar balanced outlets, they being the only media that will give Michael Barone a voice. The archaic media will have nothing to do with him.

  • Johanna Lapp

    Them sneaky Joooooos. All that readin’, writin’, thinkin’ and publishin’ is just a plot to usurp the intellectualizin’ jobs from real people.

  • Rich K

    Luckily Ill be dead by the time all these prognostications of industrial and societal Doom come to the fore.At least it gives old Walt something to write about on a daily basis. Keep up the good fight Mr Mitty.

  • Alex Bensky

    Of course one effect is “fewer Jews.” I’m not sure why that isn’t a valid complaint. Certainly the “disparate impact” meme doesn’t seem to apply to Jews. But it also doesn’t apply, especially in California, to Asians.

    As to cutting costs, universities could make a good start by dropping any department with the word “studies” in it, and any department or office whose name contains the word “diversity.”

    My father purported to be upset my last year in law school (Michigan) because the tuition for the year was $1,600, which would be about $8,000 today.Instead the school’s tuition is something like $42,000 for state re4sidents. Five times more expensive and I have yet to hear an explanation of why that’s so.

  • John Pearley Huffman

    Of course college is too expensive as an educational investment. That said, have you been on a big school campus lately? They’ve become four year resorts with huge recreational facilities, dining commons with gourmet cuisine and oversize TVs to watch, and grounds optimized for lounging.

    In an era of grade inflation, everyone who gets into a top school does well. And they leave the school tanned, relaxed and ready to ignore their debts.

  • http://paterzplace.blogspot.com DonM

    I wonder what they will do with my kids. Their mother is black, father is white, stepfather is hispanic surnamed Philipino, homeschooled, and smart as heck.

    Will they be discriminated against because they are white, or wildly discriminated for because of the other?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • RKV

    A large fraction of the growth of administrative costs in higher education are driven by the legislature. More pages in the higher ed code mean more administrators on staff. California has more pages of ed code than the rest of the US states combined. Speaking as a former IT manager in higher ed (now gainfully employeed in the private sector) the process focus was overdone at the expense of a results oriented focus.

  • jkñ

    The only error is quoting Michael Barone as if he’s … ad personam fallacy

  • Dumpsterjuice

    After 20 years at a large corporation (recently laid off) I believe that all diversity means is that the next 3 people you hire better not be white guys.

  • New Faculty

    As a new faculty person at a small liberal arts school, the big expense I see on our campus is all the personnel (and paperwork) required to meet all the certifications (accreditation and government). We don’t have all the fancy stuff that lots of colleges have – not a single climbing wall! – but we have plenty of mountain ranges when it comes to paperwork and documentation.

  • Ross

    Our colleges and universities are basic intelligence credentialing agencies with sidelines in education and research. The diversity apparatus is essential to ensure the credentials are spread evenly across racial and ethnic groups, since a ‘disparate impact’ would doom the whole enterprise (see Griggs v. Duke Power).

  • Chris C.

    Tom in comment #1 is entirely correct. UCSD serves a very large proportion of poor students (2nd-highest % of Pell grants of any large university I believe) yet continues to jack up fees and costs all across the board to pay for non-educational programs. All kinds of needless fees and expansions keep getting tacked on to support the bureaucrats while class sizes have ballooned to ridiculous levels and the top professors are jumping ship.

    The crazy thing is that nobody at UCSD is making any noise about this outrage. It’s being accepted like everything else because the diversocrats on campus have been threatening to throw the campus into chaos again (like they did after the staged “noose” incident a few years ago) if they don’t get their way on this. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.