The Forum | Costs

Quick Take: First Improve University Management

September 27, 2016 by Michael B. Poliakoff

In Charles Pruitt’s “Partisan politics is undermining the ‘Public Ivies,’” he blames declining state funding for the cycle of rising tuition and diminished resources afflicting state flagship institutions. But per student, America already spends nearly twice the average of other developed nations: Higher education’s hardships largely reflect bad choices. Count the number of Public Ivies whose growth in administrative spending outpaces that of instructional spending. Count the classrooms that sit empty on Friday afternoons and in the summer, while ribbons are cut on new facilities. Count the presidents whose salaries exceed President Obama’s. Consider the cost of curricular bloat: courses on pop stars, zombies, and vampires that replace focused, cost-effective courses and leave graduates without the core knowledge and skills they need for career and citizenship. Pruitt’s critique is particularly ironic in light of recent revelations about the University of Virginia’s $2.3 billion “reserve fund” that quietly accompanied a 30% spike in tuition and the exclusion of in-state students in favor of more lucrative out-of-state candidates—a sum that exceeds that of the entire state of Virginia’s cash reserves. Let’s address university mismanagement before demanding more hard-earned dollars from taxpayers, students, and their families.


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