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The Forum | Costs

ACTA Response to “Stop Feeding College Bureaucratic Bloat” (WSJ 6/3)

June 12, 2019

Philip Hamburger (Stop Feeding College Bureaucratic Bloat 6/3/19) aptly notes that a college bureaucracy doubling in number compared to faculty “has shifted the balance of power towards administrators, who increasingly control academic policy.” This malady is driving some of the greatest threats to higher education: exploding college costs, declining academic standards, and the erosion of academic freedom. The unrelenting invasion of administrators into the academy is an urgent public issue.

Take a look at your own alma mater and you may well discover a pattern of too much spending on bureaucrats and too little on actually teaching students. The evidence is made clear on HowCollegesSpendMoney.com, which shows how administrative costs, relative to instructional costs, have skyrocketed over the past decade. The site derives its data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, rendering it easily accessible for laypeople. For college trustees who understand that they can’t manage what they can’t measure, this is a powerful tool to combat administrative bloat at institutions across the U.S.

Professor Hamburger’s proposal to withhold federal student loan funding from schools with high administrative costs is provocative but is unlikely to happen any time soon. Until then, trustees should pressure their schools to reign in administrative costs; donors should consider closing their wallets until the problem is fixed; and students and their parents should choose institutions that spend their money wisely.

Armand Alacbay is the Vice President of Trustee & Government Affairs at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

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