Trustees | Costs

Before boosting Penn State funding, cut administration

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER   |  April 8, 2015 by Dave Ketchen

Penn State President Eric Barron wants taxpayers to provide Penn State with more funding. But given the university’s dubious financial track record, Barron needs to convince legislators that he will manage money wisely. Here are three straightforward steps that could build confidence.

Attack administrative bloat. According to data compiled by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Penn State spent $60 million more on administration in 2011-2 than it did in 2006-7; an increase of 33.2 percent. During that same period, Pitt reduced such expenditures by 25 percent and Florida State (whose president was Barron) made a 35 percent reduction. Via a systematic audit, Penn State should be able to roll back the $60 million increase.

Build strategically. In July 2014, the board of trustees advanced plans to spend more than $40 million to build dorms at two Philadelphia-area campuses. The board failed to ask basic questions such as “how many years will it take to recoup this investment?” Given that both campuses are surrounded by other housing options, it seems unlikely that either project will ever break even.

Hold key vendors accountable. If you bought a blender and it did not work, you would return it for a refund. Louis Freeh was paid $8 million for a report that has been renounced by Barron and debunked by credible analysts. Unfortunately, Freeh’s contract prevents the university from suing him, but Barron could and should request a refund. An $8 million infusion could provide $800 scholarships to 10,000 Penn State students.

DAVE KETCHEN, Opelika, Ala.


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