The Forum | Costs

Tackling Administrative Bloat: Reflecting on the Launch of

February 6, 2019 by Erik Gross

On January 30, 2019, ACTA launched a groundbreaking online resource that promises to be influential in combatting exploding college costs and student debt. allows higher education leaders, trustees, and donors to easily access and analyze data patterns on college spending. The website launch took place at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and featured a distinguished panel including Diane Auer Jones, Principal Deputy Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education; Hal Daub, former U.S. congressman and former University of Nebraska regent; Tom McMillen, president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association; and Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust president James Toscano.

These distinguished panelists were joined by Jerry Malitz, one of the chief architects of the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS database, and Armand Alacbay, ACTA’s VP for Trustee and Government Affairs.   They spoke to a packed room of over 85 guests, including a significant number of trustees. The standing room only event brought together a group of new as well as familiar faces to discuss the rising cost of tuition, the massive student debt burden on the nation, and the need for colleges to innovate, provide transparency, and improve efficiency. gives visitors a view into an institution’s administrative and instructional spending, as well as tuition as a percentage of state median household income, graduation rates and other key statistics. The site also allows users to compare institutions, so they can better understand how their institution stacks up against the wider marketplace. ACTA’s new site draws data from the IPEDS database of the National Center of Education Statistics. While this data is publicly available, it is very complex and largely only accessible to experts. ACTA’s website democratizes the data and makes it instantly available to the public.   

Guests and speakers discussed many immediate and diverse uses for the website. Tom McMillen remarked, “I wish I had this website when I was on the board at the University of Maryland. It would have been so useful in the spirit of transparency.”

Hal Daub noted that the website will be helpful for people outside of university leadership: “Financial choices are going to be a lot easier now with this tool for families and for students.”

James Toscano underscored the website’s importance for the nonprofit world: “Our organization looks at tools like the one that ACTA is launching today as a really important and useful data visualization tool.”

Diane Auer Jones articulated why university leaders, trustees, and policymakers must all work together to bring costs down. “We need your help because it is going to require the presidents of universities and trustees to join hands and say, ‘We’re going to stop the amenities arms race,’ because until everybody stops it, nobody can stop it.”

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Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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