Monday, July 19, 2010

Country Club College Spending Out Of Control

The New York Times (yes, THAT New York Times) published a great piece last week on the exploding costs of higher education in America. Leftist-Statists keep telling us how we need to expand educational spending. Feckless Republicans usually acquiesce to this foolishness because "it's for the children." But, where does the money go? We are not supposed to ask because "it's for the children."

It seems that higher education is focusing on style over substance. Student centers and recreation facilities seem to be the biggest drains as the American university spends at a rate that outstrips inflation by a country mile.

Tuition, on average, increased more rapidly over the decade at public institutions than it did at private ones. Average tuition rose 45 percent at public research universities and 36 percent at community colleges from 1998 to 2008, compared with about 21 percent at private research universities.

But the trend toward increased spending on nonacademic areas prevailed across the higher education spectrum, with public and private, elite and community colleges increasing expenditures more for student services than for instruction, the report said.

The student services category can include spending on career counseling and financial aid offices, but also on intramural athletics and student centers.

“This is the country-clubization of the American university,” said Richard K. Vedder, a professor at Ohio University who studies the economics of higher education. “A lot of it is for great athletic centers and spectacular student union buildings. In the zeal to get students, they are going after them on the basis of recreational amenities.”

On average, spending on instruction increased 22 percent over the decade at private research universities, about the same as tuition, but 36 percent for student services and 36 percent for institutional support, a category that includes general administration, legal services and public relations, the study said.

At public research universities, spending for student services rose 20 percent over the decade, compared with 10 percent for instruction.

Even at community colleges, with their far smaller budgets, spending on students services increased 9.5 percent, compared with 3.4 percent for instruction.

My guess would be that if one digs into the increases in the instructional area there would be a mother lode of dubious majors and frivolous courses. Of course, one way to increase student enrollment (and keep them from failing) is to increase the amount of useless tripe that can be served up as education.

The study also said that the recession that began in the last months of 2008 had dramatically changed the economics of higher education, probably forever.

“The funding models we’ve created in higher ed are not sustainable,” Ms. Wellman said. “We ran up spending in the ’90s and early 2000s to levels we can’t maintain, and this is true not only in the elite privates, but in many of the public institutions, too.”

Now, with private-college endowments battered and state legislatures slashing university budgets coast to coast, “policy makers as well as university presidents and boards must learn to be better stewards of tuition and taxpayer dollars,” she said.

Let me translate. Now, these clowns might actually have to act like responsible adults and do their job! Why is that we have to be in an economic crisis before government agencies (and that is what most colleges and universities are) are expected to act responsibly? Could it be that their irresponsibility is a big part of WHY we have bloated budgets, out-of-control entitlements, and sentimental sacred cows that cannot be touched?

The Delta Project "Trends in College Spending, 1998-2008"

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