Corporatizatizing The All-Administrative University

Yves here. This short post puts some facts around a long-established trend we’ve commented upon from time to time: that the explosion in higher education costs can be attributed almost entirely to adminisphere bloat, both in terms of numbers, and even more important, pay levels. For instance, Robert Samuels, president of UC-AFT, which 4,000 librarians and lecturers in the University of California system. pointed out that as little as 10% of university budgets go to education.

When I was a kid, top administrators at Harvard were few in number and modestly paid. They were almost entirely older alumni who had made enough money to retire or at least semi-retire. Having a role at Harvard allowed them to have a lot of prestige, stay comfortably cash-flow positive, hang around interesting people, and work a comfortable schedule.

However, the explosion in the number of people receiving MBA degrees (and schools that were formerly seen as second-tier and therefore not having much market value attached to their degrees somehow getting themselves seen as more desirable) has led to them colonizing not-for-profits and running them like businesses in the worst possible way, such as squeezing workers and cutting service levels to increase their pay. One big manifestation at the “better” private schools is the increase in the bad trend that had been underway at schools like Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, and NYU: that of the institution becoming an investment fund with an educational arm attached. One of the many manifestations is that a big justification for lofty administrator compensation is that they do supposedly very valuable fundraising…when those dollars go increasingly into real estate projects like overly glamorous dorms and gyms, and not into schooling.

By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics, James Madison University. Originally published at Econospeak

One of the few good things that appears to have happened in the conference committee on the generally awful impending GOP tax bill is that the hits students were going to take have been eliminated.  However, even without that additional burden, college students face costs that are far higher than any other nation and have been rising above inflation rates for decades.  While` students in Denmark actually get paid, costs are closing on $70,000 per year at the most expensive US institutions, with public schools having costs rising more rapidly than in the privates over the last decade, as states have cut public support in the wake of the revenue shortfalls that came with the Great Recession.  This is not likely to be reversed in many states as favorable views of universities among Republicans have fallen from nearly 60% to about 30% (with little change among Dems, still between 55 and 60%).

I would like to focus on a long-running trend that has been known for some time but somehow keeps disappearing from view.  This trend was best presented in the ever more relevant 2011 book by Johns Hopkins poli sci prof, Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters.  This rise of an all-powerful professional administration is tied to a corporatization of American academia.  From 1975 to 2005 while student populations rose 56%, faculty increased by 51%, administrators rose 85%, and their professional staffs rose 240%.  Around 2005 the total numbers of admins and staff surpassed that of faculty, with that trend simply continuing.  Admin salaries have risen faster than the other categories. On top of that, even as faculty numbers and salaries have not kept pace, there has also  been the weakening of status and pay arising  from the ongoing steady shift from tenure track faculty to temporary adjuncts who have risen   from 22% of faculty in 1970 to about 50% in 2017.

Ginsberg argues that this rise of administrative bloat has become administrative blight.  While admins claim that corporatization brings efficiencies and flexibility, the evidence looks just the opposite with the ridiculous rise of tuition and fees showing the lie to this claim.  Some argue that the explosion of admins is a response to expanding government mandates, this can explain only a portion of this.  Indeed, Ginsberg documents that admins have increased more at private than at public unis, which looks to be the opposite of what we expect if it were public mandates lying behind this trend.

Rather he poses a “Malthusian” theory whereby admins breed more admins.  Deans breed “deanlets” and “deanlings” or as they are more usually known, ass. deans (some associates and their underling assistants).  At JMU where I am there were precisely zero of these creatures when I arrived 40 years ago.  Now my college alone has three associate deans, and we have had an explosion of colleges, each with their plethoras of deanlets.  We now have assistants to deputy vice provosts, whereas back then two of those layers did not exist.  As it is, many of these people have too little useful to do for their overblown salaries, so they have lots of meetings, which generate initiatives to formulate strategic plans nobody gives a damn about or follows, but developing these is imperative for unis that are becoming efficient by corporatizing.  As it is these deanlets insist on dragging faculty into these horrendously nauseating exercises, even as they make it harder for faculty to teach and do research.

There is much more arising from this trend, but here at the end of this fall semester I think it is worth reminding people of this long building phenomenon, even as so many other matters have gotten lots of media and political attention.  This trend is more damaging and probably harder to overcome.  After all, when the fiscal crises hit, it is the admins who decide which jobs and salaries will be cut or restrained, not the faculty.

Addendum, 12/17:  I shall add a point that Ginsberg makes from his own observation and that I agree with, given how long I have been in and around academia (my late father also having been a professor and even an administrator).  in the “good old days” top admins tended to be more senior faculty with r1easonably distinguished records who had been on campus for a long time and knew the people and place.  Now we have undistinguished professional managers, especially among tose deanlets and others.

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  1. Larry

    Admin bloat is certainly a cause of the explosion of cost, but Yves nails the second point about admins having to show they’re doing something, which typically involves strategic plans that cost lots of money. In Massachusetts our state college system has undergone a pretty massive overhaul with campuses that were regional and commuter based transforming into liberal arts universities with more extensive dorms and facilities. One wonders if the traditional commuters who lived at home or attended while working are still being well served by these institutions and the increased cost that comes with attending them.

    I was surprised the first time I went to a conference in Europe held at the medical school in Hanover, Germany. The facilities were clearly dedicated to education with a cafeteria that was functional but mundane and no sign of an oversized and overpriced athletic facility/wellness center. It seemed to me that the primary focus of the German vs the US University was education. In the US that mission gets muddied as schools fight for tuition dollars in an ever escalating war of increased spending on glitzy facilities.

    1. Jack

      Maybe that’s why in Germany you can get a college degree for free. Even if you are not German. And we are talking top caliber schools. Of course, you have to pay a misc fee of $111 a month (which includes a free municipal transportation pass) and $87 a month for health care.

    2. Joel

      Last month I was talking with a guy who attended a for-profit trade school and had ruled out the state university system as too expensive. I screamed a little inside.

      Of course, there would have been huge financial aid for him, and at any rate the local community college would have been a better bet than a for-profit.

      But the state schools aren’t doing anywhere near the kind of “outreach” the for-profit schools are doing, and I think it’s because they have a financial incentive of their own to try to get a higher % of students who pay “full freight.”

    3. doily

      Evidence is piling up that the higher education system in the UK is failing. Readers will easily find the reports online of the precipitous decline of UK universities in world rankings, including those in the “elite” Russell Group. That this failure is rooted in “managerialism” and the neoliberal ideologies that underpin recent government policy and strategy is obvious to anyone working in this “business.”

      As a researcher/lecturer in the humanities in a Russell Group university I witnessed the spread of this managerial and neoliberal cancer over the last decade. A striking example: the profoundly stupid introduction of the “impact case study” into the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), a system-wide exercise grading departments on their research output every six years. The exercise completely lacks a methodology either for quantifying the social or economic impact of research outputs or for adjudicating between competing case studies. Lacking any push-back from scholars who know better, we got instead workshops on developing case study “rhetoric” and, at the behest of local management, in-house “mock REF” exercises endeavouring to replicate the real thing and predict the outcome, thus doubling up the meetings and emails.

      My university appointed a neoliberal go-getter CEO in 2012 who immediately began barking about his “vision 2020”, a restructuring justified by his claim that the University was facing a mortal financial crisis, a big fat lie evident to anyone who could read the published financial accounts. This was a campus spending close to £30m a year refurbishing its buildings and building new ones, while augmenting its capital reserves by millions of pounds every single year. Meanwhile, in every department there are stories of researchers who have bought time away from teaching and administrative duties with external grants only to find that Finance will not release the money to the appropriate academic unit. Scholars are afraid to blow the whistle, fearing that the funding bodies will turn away from their university.

      Working in a university these days is about somehow carving out a collective space for teaching and research with like-minded colleagues. It’s possible to fly under the radar of the managerial meetings/email machine, remaining unaffected for surprisingly long stretches of time. “Vision 2020” at my university has limped like a wounded dog toward full implementation for years now. IT features new, wasteful, overlapping, and insular layers of bureaucracy: four new faculty silos each with a new dean, a new operations manager, professional services teams, replication of financial functions in each faculty, etc. etc., all on top of the existing hierarchy. Communication and operations within and between these layers and with teaching and research staff was in my experience utterly dysfunctional. I saw no evidence of how the restructuring would support researchers and teachers at the coalface of “customer service.” But the chaos and stupidity has an upside in the unlikely survival for a few more years of proper scholarship and teaching in subject areas that are outside the “vision.” Apparently, the impact of managerialism on working life is even worse in STEM subject areas.

      The humanities are slowly and deliberately being starved to death. Marketing budgets are slashed. New websites come online and suddenly you are invisible. Retiring professors are not replaced. Severance packages, admittedly quite generous, are dangled in front of noses. I was offered one and took it, having decided I would be happier making a living working in a business that really was a business.

      1. Joel

        If you are a child of baby boomer parents, the hardest part is explaining to them why your academically-inclined self has ruled out a career in academia.

        You can explain it to them until you are blue in the face but they will never quite believe you (unless they are themselves living the dream).

        When I say it out loud, that becoming a university professor or researcher is now in the same league of career choices as actor, artist, musician, literary author, astronaut, pro athlete…that your best hope is to become a bureaucratic parasite…even I have trouble believing it.

        What future can the human race possibly have if the pursuit of knowledge is in such a state? Oh that’s right, they’re on track to kill off most life on the planet so the Dow can hit 24,000, so, umm…not our biggest concern.

  2. allan

    One administrative position that didn’t exist even twenty years is Chief Information Officer™.

    CIOs formulate and deploy digital innovation across the institution.
    If the institution is a modern research university with multiple academic or clinical units,
    there needs to be a CIO in the central administration as well as a CIO in each unit.
    Each CIO has at least one assistant to help interface with the other CIOs
    and support the CIO in their vital mission, without which the university couldn’t possibly function.

    In order to innovate at the cutting edge of our immersive information economy,
    the CIO must conference on a regular basis with CIOs from other institutions
    at suitably located and equipped facilities, after being transported there in business class.

    But if you’re an adjunct instructor of English composition needing help with the WiFi,
    you’re on your own.

      1. Vedant Desai

        Constant increase in Administration personnel is like inflation , i.e. it has Self-sustaining momentum, hence we can call it “Adminiflation” . The cause of this phenomenon was already discovered in 1955 and is called Parkinson’s Law , you can read about in more detail in this essay :-

  3. Thomas Prentice

    The University of Texas is an investment fund with an educational arm AND football team attached.

  4. NotSoAtomicRanch

    I will offer my perspective as a long time reader and first time commentor. As a professional foundation fundraiser at public land grant universities, I see the author’s points and I largely agree. Nonetheless, there is a large sliding scale. Certain universities are known to be more challenging to navigate than others. Public universities are expected by today’s generation of students and parents to deliver a wide range of services which previously were unheard of. For example, the sheer volume of mental health issues among today’s students is staggering. Universities are clamoring to add more staff to deal with the problem. It’s significantly harder to get admitted to a prestigious, affordable school and those that succeed are highly driven. It has been a slow burn of such issues over years. Decreasing state support for public higher education has put staff at a premium and many institutions feel they’re sorely lacking in professional staff. Public universities have been expected to follow the neoliberal mandate of do more with less for decades.

    Fundraising activity has boomed in the last 30 years. Most do not know this is even a career path, let alone understand the high demand for well-paid professional fundraisers. University administrators are judged by metrics and that means rankings. The competitive push for rankings drives most university decisions. Massive public university campaigns raise money for areas of weakness to better compete with peer institutions.

    I’m not sure how this problem is addressed. Public universities are unlikely to be expected to deliver less, at levels seen 40 years ago.

    1. Mike Smitka

      I’ve been curious about the mental health issues – the counselors at my school whom I knew well have all retired. My sense is that modern pharmacology interventions are allowing students to finish high school who in the past would never have made it to college, or would have been on their own (bi-polar). What I don’t know is how these individuals then fare in the job market, particularly the ADHD students who receive extra time on exams. Then again, how many jobs involve writing long papers? – whereas that diploma is considered a necessity.

      1. Big River Bandido

        I don’t mean to pick on you personally, but part of the problem of higher education is the neoliberal conflation of “education” with “the job market”. This is *not at all* what education is for. The purpose of education is to teach a student how to:

        1) read — a lot
        2) write — a lot
        3) think critically and creatively
        4) teach themself — for a lifetime
        5) in a nutshell, become the best, most well-rounded human being they can be.

        Yes, all those things do happen to make a more-employable person. But to take the next step and assume that college is mere preparation for life as a cog in the neoliberal economy is a perversion of the entire concept of education. What you are referring to is more properly (and efficiently) handled through on-the-job training.

        “Schools” that offer “degrees” in “disciplines” like “Medical Administration” or “Meeting Planning” — like the schools on the student loan default list that Yves posted here last Friday — are “schools” in name only. In reality, they are nothing but grifters and con artists.

        1. Anon

          …#4 is usually described as “learn how to learn” for a lifetime.

          But I’m not certain that you can get a whole population on that track when TeeVee beckons. It seemingly is a cultural thing.

    2. Arizona Slim

      I have a neighbor who washed out of Reed College before moving back home and getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland. Reason: Mental health issues.

      Well, a few years later, she bought a very nice house in my neighborhood. The ever-efficient neighborhood grapevine said that she could afford the place because she had a trust fund.

      Well, all-righty.

      When she first moved in, she was a graduate student at the University of Arizona. Again, the grapevine had news: She was unhappy in her graduate specialty. To the point where she had another mental meltdown and left her graduate program.

      Now, you’re probably thinking that this is a chronic trainwreck with a trust fund, but then something happened. She realized that she really, really, REALLY liked the IT field. So, she went to our local community college, geeked out on computer courses, and …

      … got a full-time job in the IT field.

      We don’t speak very often, but I get the impression that her mental health issues have faded away.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Or — it may be an indication of the general mental health in the IT field. Your neighbor finally found a place where she could feel right at home.

      1. Mike

        A suspicion here – since poor or “inequalitied” people do not have easy access to psychiatrists unless they show signs of anti-social behavior, it would be a sociological stretch to have a definitive study of this issue with detailed mathematical compilations that measure the subtle yet obvious growth of mental health issues as you wander down the income/social class spectrum. While it would be natural to suspect this problem has always been there, a guess would be that there are more dramatic fall-offs now as opposed to 40-120 years before, or before Freud.

        My wife’s family, all Democrats of rather good professional credential status, are exhibiting signs of severe dissociative disorder, with many cutting themselves away from opposing viewpoints. Many, who would’ve had experience with non-reality thought, would say “what’s the difference?”. But now they will seek professional counseling and be counted, whereas before not so much…

        1. Nell

          Hi Mike,
          Fortunately, studies in mental health and social economic status (SES) are possible in the UK. We can control for access to healthcare as the NHS (still, just) provides free healthcare. A large number of studies have been done on this topic, and you can find many studies under the Whitehall Study II website. A replicable finding is that there is a mental health gradient similar to the physical health gradient. The lower your SES status the more likely you are to suffer with a mental health disorder. Stress, as you might imagine, is the likely mediating factor.

      2. Joel

        Lambert’s written about the effect of inequality on health here on NC in the last few months. Worth searching for.

  5. Octopii

    When University of Maryland (College Park) built a gleaming new luxury fitness center about fifteen years ago, we students were actually shocked. We knew we were paying for it in steeply increasing core costs and athletic fees. In return we got Katie Ledecky, so I suppose it’s not all bad. But what a surprise that was. I know from being in the AEC industry that it has only gotten crazier since that time. The last UMCP building I worked on had a relatively small classroom to common space ratio – it was a building that made more sense as a hangout space than a “teaching and learning center” as it was dubbed.

    In addition to construction of those facility master plans, there has been a parallel increase in staffing and spending required for IT systems and services to support academic and research work. That’s a significant cost. One could argue the necessity of wifi everywhere and slick audiovisual presentation systems, but it is a tangible product, in contrast to legions of MBAs.

    I’m not arguing against the article’s thesis, rather complementing it. No doubt all that extra admin manpower has enabled the explosion in facilities.

    1. Jim A

      And of course the newer dorms are WAY fancier than the old towers from the 70s. And the new Basketball arena is WAY fancier than Cole Field House. I can’t help but think that this has been enabled by the increasing availability of student loans, which in turn has been fueled mostly by the fact that those are difficult or impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. Because public universities are really more of a Debt pusher than an investment fund, IMHO.

      When you add the tendency to “corporate-ize” compensation to make it more tilted towards high pay for the top administrators and less for faculty, by relying ever more on poorly compensated “adjunct” lecturers, we see less and less of the budget going to actual instruction.

      1. Arizona Slim

        And what about those fancy private dorms? They’re sprouting like mushrooms near the University of Arizona.

        One of my friends got curious and decided to call one of the places. Her story: I’m looking for a nice apartment for my son.

        She was told that the apartments were being rented by the room, and some of those rooms were as much as $1,500 a month.

        Here in Tucson, you can still get a mortgage for less than that. But there are those party towers with all of those amenities. And, from what I’ve heard, they’re pretty full at all times.

        Long story short: My friend didn’t have that kind of money for her son’s housing. And neither did he or his girlfriend. So, they stayed where they were.

      2. Grumpy Engineer

        Lack of dischargability is half the problem with student loans. The other half of the problem is that they are made without regard to the likelihood or feasibility of repayment. When you lend somebody $80k to attend a crappy for-profit barber school with a poor history of student loan repayment, are you really doing them a favor? I would argue that the answer is no, but the US Department of Education will issue the loan anyway.

        Indeed, the whole concept of “responsible lending” has gone out the window when it comes to student loans. The problem arguably started started with the Higher Education Act of 1965 when the federal government started backing private loans to increase lending. When the banks discovered that they’d get their money back whether or not the student could repay, lending standards went out the window. And when the government quit backing private loans and started issuing their own instead (via the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2010), things didn’t improve. The Education Department is even more willing to lend regardless of the likely ability (or lack thereof) to repay.

        And our colleges and universities have taken full advantage of this. After all, there’s nothing that really limits how much tuition they can charge. If students can’t afford the costs, they can always borrow the money. It’s not the school’s problem if students are unable to repay afterwards.

        1. Optic7

          Thank you. I was going to post asking a leading question about whether the widely-available student loans contributed to these rapidly-escalating costs, but you already pretty much answered it.

    2. Anon

      Actually, you didn’t get Katie Ledecky. She’s currently at Stanford University (private, Palo Alto, CA). And scoring points for their swim team by winning distance (1500M) events by four laps (200 meters). USA! USA!

      For non-swimmers: by being so dominant, Ledecky allows the swim coach to mix in lower level athletes (swimmers) in the “team events”, saving other elite swimmers for their womano-a-womano individual specialty.

  6. EoH

    NYU, for example, appears to be a Manhattan real estate development fund with an overpaid administrative staff. Its ancillary services amount to employing vice presidents and their assistants, and running a temp agency for former teaching staff. Students are debtors, last in line for services.

    1. timotheus

      While NYU colonizes downtown, Columbia does the same uptown. When Columbia president Lee Bollinger visited the medical campus last week, he had an entire security detail accompanying him. No doubt there are jihadis standing by ready to snatch him for ransom.

    2. Robert Dannin

      NYU got its game from the maestro, Charles Kushner:


      When Mayor Bloomberg presided over the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Affairs in the Puck Building last autumn, he dedicated the event to a crusade “against corruption and for good government.” In extolling these virtues as representative of NYU and Puck Magazine, the 1920’s muckraking publication that lent its name to the building, his comments concealed the irony behind another phase in the university’s urban expansion. Absent from the celebration was Charles Kushner, the event’s benefactor who last year donated the sumptuous Puck Building to NYU. His presence would have been an embarrassment after his August appearance in a New Jersey courtroom where he pled guilty to tax fraud, violation of federal campaign contribution laws, obstruction of justice, and blackmail. Several weeks later Kushner was also implicated in an influence-peddling plot. However, New Jersey Governor McGreevy’s sudden resignation ended speculation and possible legal action concerning his relationship with an Israeli named Golan Cipel, whom Kushner apparently recruited on behalf of New York’s Touro Medical College for a contract to become the state’s first private medical school.
      Though facing a prison stretch up to 25 years, Kushner remains on the NYU Board of Trustees. This is probably realistic considering his power as a local real estate baron with extensive contacts and the deep resources necessary to promote NYU’s real estate fortunes. But it also invites public questioning of some common assumptions about the roles of universities and their leaders. What are their standards of conduct and to whom are they applicable? Should universities be required to demonstrate periodically the common good they provide in exchange for state funds, tax-exemptions, and other abatements? How closely do we need to follow development plans of ever-expanding behemoths like NYU, especially when they are the very sources of the credentialed experts who explain and justify this growth?
      As centers for higher education, public and private universities alike function as the yardsticks by which we measure scientific, artistic, and moral achievement. Accordingly, universities have throughout history needed to explain their affairs to host communities who are enriched by the rents and services they receive from students and staff yet wary of surrendering power to outsiders. That is why, for example, NYU refers to itself as “a private university in the public service.” It is an industry and the students are a packaged market for all the retailers who surround the campus and also the wholesalers, services, and job-providers who supply its vast infrastructure.
      From the Middle Ages onward, relations between town and gown were subject to constant negotiations, regarded as salutary whenever over-exuberant student behavior aroused public censure and demanded the restoration of order. By the same token, townsfolk learned to tolerate the sometimes strange rituals and bizarre paraphernalia of college life, all the while retaining their sovereignty to judge its actions as matter of public concern. From this symbiosis emerged certain definitions and moral standards of citizenship, presumably modeled upon the practices of intellectuals in high leadership positions.
      Recalling an instance of another university trustee’s misconduct, that’s why Hazel Dukes was forced to resign from her position on the board of SUNY seven years ago. Ms. Dukes, once an esteemed civil rights leader and president of the New York chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had pled guilty to embezzling $13,000 from the bank account of an elderly friend with cancer. The NY Attorney General ruled that she had violated her oath of office and therefore must resign. Despite her confession and agreement to repay the money, Dukes was in no position to continue an association with the state university system. Commenting on the propriety of her departure, a fellow board member declared, “I feel that trustees not only have fiduciary responsibility, but we and other higher-education leaders serve as role models for our students.”
      Charles Kushner’s case reflects a different order of public insult. The details are exceedingly sordid, the crimes more serious. He made illegal campaign donations and then, finding himself trapped in an FBI investigation tried to obstruct justice by extorting a potential witness. He hired a prostitute to lure the man into a New Jersey motel room where a hidden camera recorded their tryst. Kushner then arranged to deliver the videotape to the witness’s wife at their home on the day of their daughter’s sixteenth birthday party. The witness, his wife, and child were none other than Mr. Kushner’s own brother-in-law, sister, and niece.
      Leaving aside the unbecoming example of a university trustee’s grotesque behavior, it is Kushner’s willful subversion of electoral democracy that ought to disqualify him from any future association with education. This kind of tampering can hardly be encouraging to the thousands of university students whose interest in voting we so desperately require. “Vote for change? Why bother? That’s just the way things are done.”
      The mayor ignored this irony, joking instead about the Wagner School as the premiere job-training institute for City Hall. NYU president, John Sexton, the event’s host, obtained the Puck Building property by recruiting Kushner onto the board of trustees. He should explain the sequence of events in NYU’s windfall real estate acquisition, especially what he knew about his friend, Kushner’s troubles before accepting the gift. Those interested in the city’s welfare deserve an explanation. So do Sexton’s fellow governors at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Will anyone step forward to require this testimony, preferably under oath?
      It should be recalled that Sexton spoke enthusiastically in the grim autumn of 2001 about a “moral surge” that he detected in the general reaction to the World Trade Center attacks. He intimated that this sentiment was key to a necessary paradigm shift throughout the city and nation but more specifically at NYU. In coining this term, he wanted to define his leadership priorities. Of course this occurred before his move into the NYU presidential suite. A year later, the mandate of that office led him to introduce a newer agenda called “the enterprise university,” an unambiguous embrace of priorities dear to the corporate trustees like Kushner.
      Do New Yorkers really consider it acceptable for NYU to inherit this chunk of real estate, so crassly donated as a tax write-off? Many New York city parents might like to see the tainted Puck Building, or at least part of it, redeemed in the guise of a new public school. It would be a more direct affirmation of NYU’s pledge to community service than its continual property hoarding. In any event, this scandal illustrates the idea that large urban universities, public or private, are too much part of our common space to operate without formal public scrutiny.

      Robert Dannin
      January 17, 2005

  7. ambrit

    A quick comment.
    Where I work, two twenty-something men tell me that one has $40,00 in student debt, and the other $60,000 in student debt. Neither has graduated yet. One was on the sports track, he being very athletic and sharp as a tack, the other doing the business curriculum trip. Both work at the Chicken Palace to ‘make ends meet.’ Both are budding cynics.
    On the corporatizing front; my Dad once worked in the plans department of a major chemical concern. The draftsmen and engineers would fight to not have to go to the weekly cocktail meeting where every department had to have a representative. Perhaps a Jobs Guarantee would help siphon off some of that useless administrative bloat; say, a Federal Department of Administrators? The government can be the ‘Employer of Last Report.’
    Yoiks and away! This is the Christmess buying rush week!

    1. ambrit

      I just had an Ultra Cynical idea while shaving. Expect one of the ‘Usual Neoloberal Suspects’ to put forward the idea that heavily indebted college students can discharge that debt through, wait for it…. Military Service.
      Gotta run.

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Military Service would be the fitting end after the Gramscian Long March Through The Institutions, but with plenty of deferments and exemptions. ;p

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        I thought they already did — it’s just that you have to do the Military Service first. Helping to cover educational costs that way saves the government money since many of the veterans may have other problems than attending a college or university after they’ve spent some years in military service.

        I suppose an adjunct plan after the debt is incurred might be a good idea too — very efficient compared with defaults. And it would be an easy sell to the debt sharks as long as the Federal government pays the notes off in full in the event the debtor becomes deceased. The larger sharks might even use that feature to help the MIC select conflicts and deploy forces.

        1. Mike Madison

          My daughter graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 with about $9,000 in student loans. She was able to discharge those by working for a year for Americorps, building hiking trails in a national forest.

          1. Tom

            Unfortunately, a single Americorps year only qualifies participants for $5500 in grants and that year requires living entirely off the provided monthly stipend of ~$900 a month. Not something that everyone is able to do.

  8. EoH

    When presidents are full-time fundraisers who employ chiefs of staff without an educational background or interest, their colleges and universities are mere places of employment and revenue. Their principal clients become not students but the rich and famous whom they mimic and from whom they take – for charitable purposes, mind.

    What would it be like if an MBA were a disqualification for employment outside the banking sector and for-profit corporation? Or if staff positions had term limits and those holding them were required to return to teaching duties – not transfer to another staff position? Or if board members stopped demanding that teaching institutions ape [themselves] for-profit companies like GM or Uber and started demanding that they act like institutions of higher learning?

  9. voislav

    I’ve seen it go both ways. Some of the rise in administration is due to incompetence and mismanagement, but a lot of it is due to different services that universities are now required to offer.

    For example, when I was a part of the science faculty at an arts-heavy school the issue came up that the school attracted little research funding. So the administration setup a board comprised of different faculty members to look into the issue. The conclusion was simple, arts faculties doesn’t get the big ticket research funding, the university had no medical or engineering school. Recommendation was to appoint new faculty in research-intensive areas, mostly STEM. Administration ignored the recommendation and decided to setup the Office of Research Support, staffed by administrators with a vague mandate to “support research”, money for which came by cutting the research support services, like machine shop staffing.

    Another example is the disability services. A friend of mine works at the Disability Office for a major Canadian university. In the past they had to deal with the usual issues, providing support for handicapped students and students with mental illnesses. But in the last ten years they’ve had to increase staffing to deal with a flood of anxiety-related issues. Students can now claim test anxiety as a mental disorder, which compels the university to provide a special environment for that student to take the test in. They are given double the usual test time and a private office with one-on-one supervision for all their tests. Some of it is real, but a lot of it is students and their parents trying to scam the system and provide a competitive edge for their kids.

    Analysing this issue has to go beyond just looking at the administrative vs. teaching staff. A lot of the functionality in child rearing and general welfare that used to be assumed by the society is being dumped onto educational institutions (mental health, security, even nutrition) and this is getting baked into the cost of education.

    1. flora

      ah, reasearch grants. Yes, big push by uni to attract grants (of which uni admin skims a large percentage off the top, leaving reduced grant $ for principal grant winner to use in research.) I’ve seen some faculty positions advertised as requiring substantial grant funding in the job announcement, as in, selected candidate must have grant $ already committed to them or have a history of successful grant applications. Uni science and tech prof positions seem to be becoming like law: must generate large “billable hours” (grant funds) to succeed. Teaching undergrads is a secondary consideration to uni success.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I know the terms are used somewhat interchangeably in discussions but do you mean research ‘grants’ or research ‘contracts’?

        1. RickM

          “Grants & Contracts” is often one part of the “Office of Sponsored Programs,” or something similar.

          There is a distinction. Research grants generally come from research funding agencies, both public (National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, NASA) and private (American Heart Association, American Cancer Society). These are almost always awarded after fairly stringent “peer review” and are intended to fund the “best science,” whatever the subject. But with success rates at or below 10%, much is now unfunded. I have written and reviewed grants for over 20 years. There are three broad categories of research grants: Fundable, Will Get Funded upon Revision, and Hopeless, and they account for equal thirds. In the top third, there is no objective way to distinguish among these applications. A grant in the top 10% is not objectively better than one in the top 30%. Granting agencies expect you to do the research described in the application, but if in the process you figure out a better way to get to the answers, that is fine. Generally.

          Research contracts are more often just that: You are expected to do the work and provide legitimate “deliverables” (I hate that word in an academic context). These sometimes come from government agencies, but they are also awarded by large companies, who essentially contract out work they could do. For example, a member of Big Pharma contracting with a School of Pharmacy to assay the effects of a new drug on cultured cells or asking a research lab to independently develop/evaluate a new technology.

          I have been part of both mechanisms, which come with “indirect costs” provided to the university. These range from 40-70% over and above “direct costs” granted to do the work. For example, for every $100,000 grant at my institution, the institution gets a check for $157,000. Rates are negotiated with NIH and other funding agencies. Many private organizations cap this at a flat 10%, which can be anathema to so-called “soft money” organizations (Scripps Research Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies).

          The institution frequently counts all “Grants and Contracts” as one big pot of money. For example, Johns Hopkins is, or was, the current leader, but much of that is support for their Applied Physics Laboratory, basically Pentagon money.

          The funny thing about indirect costs is that whatever the rate, it doesn’t really cover “overhead.” A study at the University of Rochester found recently that to make to “research enterprise go, the university must pony up another 40% of their collected overhead. Ha!

          Sorry, TMI, but this is an important subject to me.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I think this is an important subject to all of us. Undermining the grant system was the beginning of and remains an important support to the Corporate takeover of Science.

            1. RickM

              Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 was the beginning of the end. I was there at the beginning as a very low-level technician, and I remember telling my boss that this only meant we would pay for things 2-3 times now, at ever increasing prices. Of course, I was also the “resident lab socialist” ;-) What Bayh-Dole meant is that those so inclined saw the change as a chance to grab the golden ring. Some work resulted in real advances. Most so-called “start-ups” failed, but many times not before being bought out by a bigger fish, which often meant the starters made a pile. Exclusively on the institution’s dime (including grant money).

      2. Grumpy Engineer

        @flora: Yes, research grants are the reason I’m not a university professor today. I really wanted to teach and had the necessary credentials, but the prospect of walking around all the time with my hat in my hand begging for grants was a show-stopper for me. [I’m a terrible salesman.]

        And yes, I can confirm that “teaching undergrads is a secondary consideration to uni success”. I had a department chair tell me that point-blank to my face. That “sealed the deal” (in a negative sense) and I walked away.

        1. JBird

          My teachers, even the not so good ones, are passionate about their subject, and not only really enjoy teaching it to all their students, they really, almost desperately, want to. I do not see anyone of them being good at sales. Being forced to be a salesperson would just be death to them.

          So many of teachers are being reduced to temps, and much of the rest to salesclerks/salesperson/propagandist instead of teachers, or even researchers.

          And most of us students, their families, and taxpayers are being forced to increasingly pay for not only this commodification, but also the crapification, of the education that I am now receiving.

          ambrit mentioned cynicism amongst students, well how about rage? The basic of giving and receiving a good education has not changed since forever, but the difficulty as well of the necessity of has. Yes, there might be some extra expenses for teaching people with some problems, or deficiencies, but not that much. One still is forced to pay for an ever worsening education for a even a chance at staying afloat, never mind succeeding, nowadays.

          1. witters

            I wonder if this is why Jon S, our “CIO of a large local government in Florida,” finds “you guys… hilarious.”

        2. Groundhog

          @ Grumpy Engineer
          My wife feels similarly. She loves teaching, but has chosen not to pursue faculty positions for a number of reasons. First, she hates the emphasis on research over teaching. Second, she abhors the plight of the adjunct or simple lecturer. Third, at Liberal Arts colleges where research is less emphasized, the culture of the institutions is becoming to professionalized and the composition of the students is becoming too concentrated with the upper crust (need blind admissions is becoming a thing of the past).

          She has passed up great opportunities at her two alma maters due to the “rat race feel” of what is occurring in academia.

  10. EoH

    Administrative bloat, the lowering and diminishing of services to students, such as teaching via contract employees who make just over what they would at the local Wal-Mart, and high student debt (owing to Republican legislatures raiding the commons). All breed cynicism in what should be the most upbeat, energized and hopeful group in society.

    This reversal of the priorities implicit in JFK’s, Ask not… speech, may be the greatest harm of all – and that seems a desired goal. It deligitimizes education, public service, any pursuit beyond personal enrichment at any cost to those around you. It would be like rooming with Rush Limbaugh or being an uninvited guest at a Koch brothers retreat..

  11. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    It won’t surprise you that this applies increasingly to the UK, especially at institutions called the Russell Group. This said, Oxbridge has had property since the colleges were founded in medieval days.

    Imperial College big plans for Kensington, including for tourists and shoppers. Cambridge non-university related residential real estate plans for its hinterland.

    Students have been called clients for years in the UK, but, depressingly, I was told by the husband and father of nurses, last week, that hospital patients and care home residents are also called clients.

  12. Felix_47

    Thank you for this post. We are seeing the same thing in medical care interestingly. It is leading to a similar explosion in costs. Only administrators can cope with increasing regulation which administrators create.

  13. WobblyTelomeres

    I wonder if anyone has produced a study comparing the number of administrative positions with the number of adjunct instructors, both absolute and relative.

    Might be illuminating (and, as one who taught as an adjunct for one and only one semester, quite probably very depressing).

  14. Olivier

    No doubt MBAs are, generally speaking, the scum of the earth but, to play the devil’s advocate, there are some glaring flaws in the argument above. This for instance: “admins have increased more at private than at public unis, which looks to be the opposite of what we expect if it were public mandates lying behind this trend.” does not hold water. For research universities at least the distinction between private and public is meaningless as the former are no less dependent on public (mostly federal) funding. Thus you would not expect them to be shielded from government mandates. Only a handful of extremely wealthy and mostly non degree-granting institutions like the HHMI are independent from federal funding or could afford to be. Meanwhile any amount of public funding, however small, brings the entirety of the mandates with it.

  15. Jeremy Grimm

    Private schools may debase their mission rationalizing education out of their schools but there is no excuse for the debasement of our public schools, colleges, and universities. It isn’t administration bloat really, the administration bloat is a means to deconstruct public education. It also serves as one means to loot and debase science and U.S. industry, and ruin what remains of our decadent culture. What does ‘efficiency’ mean outside the realm of abstract numbers? Is it more efficient to make more of more crappy widgets more cheaply with less labor and fewer jobs?

  16. Indillnoisagan

    I am staff at a public university. What I see are endless initiatives to help boost student retention numbers and help boost the number of graduates in a timely manner. We have many programs to help low-income, first generation multicultural, …etc. students. We pile on the hi tech software and hardware systems that create their own problems. It would seem that the average student has an infinite supply of resources to navigate our system and yet we still need more and more staff to help them navigate the system. We argue that they are first generation and don’t have the cultural competence to navigate our system. Faculty are under constant pressure to make their courses more “inclusive” for the sake of retention and graduation numbers. We rarely talk about the content of our classes but instead, about being inclusive and the vague benefits of a liberal arts education.

    The story is that under the old model, pre-administrative bloat, we served a privileged few who cam into the university well prepared due to their priviliged backgrounds. We had white faculty teaching white students and so few cultural obstacles. Of course, we chose to ignore the students who crashed and burned but we are more enlightened now. And so, like the k12 model, we have adopted more of a no child left behind mentality. The marginal costs of education skyrocket because the marginalized students need way more resources to succeed. They come unprepared academically and culturally. They work outside jobs and they are pressured to spruce up their resumes with many activities on the side. The days of having 18 year-olds prepared to sit in a cubicle and study for 40 hours a week are long gone. Nowadays students do not read and faculty do give them bad grades, they ask themselves what they are doing wrong. Staff and administration do allow faculty to blame “lazy” or overworked students, but instead come up with all kinds of programs to help them change their curriculum to meet these new students’ new needs. They come up with theories about Generation Z and Y. We are supposed to adapt to them and not the other way around, except who they are changes all the time. Generation Z was into collaboration but Generation Y is more independent. Seriously, this is what we are told. And somehow these vague distinctions are supposed to guide how we make for more inclusive classrooms.

    The instinct and intents are good, but we are drowning in all of these good intentions. How is it helpful for low income students when we add 30% to their tuition just so we can pay for all the efforts to help low income students? We have faculty being tasked with coming up with ways to make their subjects more attractive so that they can “compete” but their endless meetings and initiatives take them out of the classroom and sap their energy, energy which, would make their classes more attractive. They don’t have time to meet with students or give them proper feedback because they have to go to committee meetings to discuss ways they can be inclusive and help retain students.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I don’t doubt your good intentions, and the good intentions of much of the administrative staff supporting our public schools, colleges, and universities. However you might lay off the Kool-Aid for a while and take a more skeptical look at the way Liberal follies are exploited to explain and serve Neoliberal goals and policies.

      Pick out a few of the slogans you’ve repeated in your comment: “no child left” … “come unprepared academically and culturally” … “help low-income, first generation multicultural”. And take a closer look at the management speak in “initiatives to help boost student retention” … “boost the number of graduates in a timely manner”.

      And take your question: “How is it helpful for low income students when we add 30% to their tuition just so we can pay for all the efforts to help low income students?” There’s a good start. You might also check on that 30% number. I would think with the costs of school growing at rates higher than inflation for many years they have increased by more than 30%. I remember paying slightly more for a full quarter at the state university than present day courses charge per unit.

      Good intentions don’t necessarily serve good purposes.

    2. Paul Cardan

      ‘Privilege’ is a telling word. It indicates that some people, those privileged, are favored over others, insofar as the former have opportunities that the latter lack. Usually, the person using this term also wishes to convey that there is something unfair about these differences, even though the term isn’t well suited for that work. Persons seated in first-class are, for instance, privileged relative to other airline passengers, but there isn’t necessarily anything unfair about that, given that those in first-class have paid for the privilege of being there, whereas others did not. But the term ‘privilege’ has come to be used to convey unfairness all the same, perhaps because its often used to talk about differences in opportunity that are obviously unjustifiable (as with white privilege when it comes to obtaining loans of various kinds, housing, etc.). Used in this way, its become the preferred way of discussing problems of race, gender, sexuality, etc., at least for many people in higher ed, especially faculty and administrators, though it has also seeped into the language of student activists and left activists generally, having displaced a host of other terms for talking about the same problems. Those terms include ‘oppression,’ ‘exploitation,’ and ‘domination.’ An important feature of the displaced terms is that they convey conflict: one person or group of people is doing something to another person or group of people, something that the latter can be expected to resist, something that isn’t right or good. The terms ‘exploitation’ and ‘domination’ go further, suggesting that some people gain at the expense of others. This comes through loud and clear with ‘exploitation’ but its there in ‘domination’ too. It is telling, then, that ‘privilege’ has become the preferred term, since claims about privilege invite us to think of our many social ills as problems of unequal opportunity to compete in a system that is otherwise fair, as opposed to thinking of our problems as features of ongoing conflicts between those who gain at the expense of others and the others from whom they gain. It seems to me, then, that ‘privilege’ is first and foremost a term of art of the identity politics wing of neoliberalism.

      That is, of course, the wing that dominates higher ed. Not coincidentally, these are the same people who regard higher education as a panacea. Market outcomes, you see, are always, as such, fair, with each participant rewarded exactly according to their contribution. Economic inequalities, then, must be due to differences in contribution. Some of these differences are owing to differences in education, with less well-compensated laborers having less education. Unless we want to explain differences in educational achievement by appeal to innate differences in intelligence, work-ethic, and such, then those differences must be due to other factors, such as practices of exclusion from higher ed based on considerations of race, gender, and so forth. Thus, if higher ed would only change its exclusionary practices, everyone would have an equal opportunity for an education that leads to higher productivity and better market outcomes. All will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds (literally, since a perfectly competitive market is not only just but optimal – “a very Eden of the innate rights of Man,” as the Bearded One put it). Note that I am not suggesting that higher educational institutions have not been racist,sexist ,and so forth for the whole of their history up to this point. Obviously, they have been guilty as charged. I’m only trying to point out that there’s a certain logic to the ideology here.

      And I’m also suggesting that left activists broaden their terminology a bit. ‘Privilege’ might sometimes be apt, but it also invites us to buy into a very misleading picture of how our world works. ‘Oppression,’ ‘domination,’ and ‘exploitation,’ would often do a much better job of referring to what’s actually going on.

      1. Mark J Lovas

        “……but there isn’t necessarily anything unfair about that, given that those in first-class have paid for the privilege of being there, whereas others did not.” — well, if we know exactly how they earned the money, we might know it is all fair. But how do you know there was no privilege involved in their having the job in the first place? There is old fashioned nepotism, the buddy system, and a preference for people like those already here— which may mean the same racial or ethnic background. And I believe that is documented in studies—though, I rely upon readers to correct me if I am wrong. And money earned is no proof of hard work. Lots of gaps in the reasoning here. X earns more money than Y, so both get what they deserve? Lots of reasons that might not be true. It also depends upon the genuine social usefulness of the job. Some jobs are not beneficial to society, but pay well—-say certain bankers, and executives, maybe even generals and economists. Maybe that,’s not exactly “,privilege” but it is not fair or good.

    3. PUstaffer

      I can’t speak to your university in particular but, for the public institutions in my home state (TX), those initiatives only speak for a small fraction – if any- of the overall costs for tuition. I qualify that because most public universities are primarily funded by tuition costs. If the university has a sizable dropout rate, the income they get from tuition will suffer as well. Ergo, the university more than likely gains by setting up a multitude of programs aimed at student retention.

      The original blog post has it right, IMO, that administrative bloat has been the main driver of increased tuition costs, though it says nothing of the way of the “why” this is happening. From what I gather, schools are locked in an arms race for prestige and the chief administrators’ way of trying to secure more grant money, better sports teams, better researchers, etc. is to hire more and more administrators, irrespective of the fact that these initiatives are a money pit if they’re not already a top-tier institution. If these places were to batten down the hatches and focus on, say, undergraduate education instead of throwing money at every status-seeking opportunity, they might actually enhance their reputation and drive down tuition costs. But that’s not shared by the prevailing executive culture. They’d rather focus on creating new graduate programs whose graduates have no chance in the hyper-competitive academic labor market – an environment for which they are responsible by inflating the total graduate population and then not investing concurrent resources in faculty that could absorb them.

      In sum, the root of the inefficiencies and inequities that beset higher education is the same top-down corporate culture it seeks to replicate. There’s too much power in the hands of a few who don’t (and can’t given the frequency) have sufficient information to make informed decisions that would best serve those in the institution or even for the sustenance of the institution itself, in many cases. Instead, they follow along and get swept up in the delirium of competition, failing to notice their own unsustainable missteps because everyone else is doing the same. All at the behest of faculty, students, and staff (some of them, at least) who ultimately sacrifice for their quixotic quests.

      1. JBird

        The State of California used to pay the entire cost, excepting some very modest fees, of a college student’s education, which explains why my dirt poor family could go to college. We have the combination of “administrative”and “services” bloat with a massive decrease in state funding.

        Referencing how privilege, connections, and wealth can make getting any education worthwhile has anyone noticed that most; maybe all, of the Supreme Court justices are graduates of either Yale or Harvard??? Special privileges, social connections, wealth, of amount will always be around, but whereas it was background music, it’s now an orchestra with its own conductor. Same with the cost of an education. The cost was just incidental; now it is all with the degree sometimes being determined not by how beneficial, interesting, or even just useful, but solely on how much money you can make. Because you have to pay for that expensive education in an awful economy that doesn’t forgive mistakes, or misfortune.

  17. Vedant Desai

    Constant increase in Administration personnel is like inflation , i.e. it has Self-sustaining momentum, hence we can call it “Adminiflation” . The cause of this phenomenon was already discovered in 1955 and is called Parkinson’s Law , you can read about in more detail in this essay :-

  18. DJG

    The University of Chicago is an endowment attached to a real-estate empire that provide shelter for departments from the University of Laputa shilling quack medicine in the form of free-market fundamentalism and Law&Economics Ajit-Pai products. And who can forget the glorious Becker-Friedman Institute of Profitable Delusion, which attracts pilgrims from hither and yon? So the administrative attitude has also captured the “intellectual product.” There used to a good liberal-arts college there, but it was allowed to bloat because an enrollment of only 2,000 was deemed too small to make it a profit center.

  19. DJG

    Edward Tufte, the design and information-presentation guru, has been talking about this for years. I believe that the stultifying influence of administrative bloat is one of the reasons he resigned from Yale.

  20. Altandmain

    Other issues that need to be addressed include:

    The cuts to university funding, especially when the Republicans are in control. They seem to have an ideological hostility to all things education, except when it is privatized.

    The cuts to research and development funding. We now have serious shortfalls of funding for basic research and other important areas.

    The endless peddling of sports. I see lots of communities in the US who are obsessed with athletic programs at their universities and not enough emphasis on academics, which in turn are starved of funds that they need.

    It seems like the worst aspects of corporations has seeped into universities.

    1. Joel

      But altandmain, how we can we credibly criticize cuts to university funding when our tax dollars are just being funneled into salaries and perks for needless bureaucrats?

      1. False Solace

        > how we can we credibly criticize cuts to university funding when our tax dollars are just being funneled into salaries and perks for needless bureaucrats?

        The whole point is that universities were starved of funding, on purpose, to make them kowtow to the private sector for donations. To make them “more like a business”. To make them beg the rich for charity. To shut up those uppity professors and student protesters. And now our universities are infested with ignoramus MBAs who do nothing but destroy and outsource, just like the rest of big business. That’s how we “credibly criticize” funding cuts.

        Under neoliberalism, every single institution on the planet needs to worship the dollar. They obey the Almighty Market. If it were up to them moms would charge infants for breast milk.

  21. Joel

    In my local area, there is a public vocational-technical high school with fewer than 1000 students and at least eight high-level non-teaching administrators (i.e., not having daily interactions with students) making more than $100k/year. That is on top of the counselors and administrators who actually work with students.

    So it’s not just higher education. Where there’s a gravy train, there will be people lined up to ride. And where there isn’t a gravy train, some social-enterprising nonprofit MBA will be building one.

    1. Lord Koos

      Gravy train indeed.

      I have friends who work at the local public university, which is a major employer in our small town. One is a guy in the surplus and purchasing department, the other is a woman in her early 60s who works in accounting.

      The administrators of the accounting department recently spent a lot of money on new software system which apparently doesn’t work very well, and they’ve also laid off some people, so that my friend has a lot more work on her plate than previously, while having to use buggy software to get it done. She now hates her job and would love to retire early but cannot afford to leave. She says that despite many complaints from accounting, the administration seems not to care that their new software sucks, and the accounting department was told that money is tight, thus the layoffs.

      My pal in the surplus & purchasing dept gets to see purchase orders. It seems that although money is “tight” for the accounting department, apparently the budget is not so constrained for the administrative class, as my friend saw a purchase order for a $7000 rug for the vice president’s office. Grifters…

      The changes in higher ed are affecting the character of our town as well, as the ratio of rentals to homeowners is now 60/40%. Our neighborhood was almost entirely homeowners not that long ago but now half the houses on our street are rentals. The overly well-paid president of the university owns a couple of rental houses nearby, which he can of course rent to college students, so he’s making out like umh, a bandit.

      Regarding the computer systems at this school, they spend a fortune on it, but students are constantly complaining about the terrible campus wifi service.

  22. Adam Eran

    Interesting take. I hadn’t known the administration of higher education grew so enormously.

    On the other hand, I did know that federal funding for higher education is down 55% since 1972. (And really, given the student protests of the sixties, isn’t this understandable?)

    …not a huge surprise, then, that tuition keeps on rising.

    That the MBA delusion (if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist) has infected just about every corner of the universe is not that surprising either. See Matthew Stewart’s The Management Myth for a real smackdown of the MBA philosophy.

    Also worth a look, to debunk the pseudo-science of economics: Steve Keen’s Debunking Economics. Keen reports businesses used to hire economists to advise them, but the “science” has become so divorced from reality that no longer occurs.

    Jane Jacobs says this about planning, but “scientific” management and economics are equally culpable: Land use planning is positively neurotic in its willingness to embrace what doesn’t work and ignore what does. It’s a form of advanced superstition, like 19th century medicine that thought bleeding and purging patients would work a cure.

  23. Lord Koos

    Anyone who wants a good look at current higher ed issues, I highly recommend the documentary “Ivory Tower”. The part about Cooper Union in NYC will make your head explode…

  24. JBird

    Also worth a look, to debunk the pseudo-science of economics: Steve Keen’s Debunking Economics. Keen reports businesses used to hire economists to advise them, but the “science” has become so divorced from reality that no longer occurs.

    Prior to the 1970s economics was more about studying economics, and in the 19th century it was more like political economy, not the current proselytizing of neoliberal religion of Free Market Capitalism. Maybe it was not hard “science,”but anthropology, especially cultural, but it was a disciplined study that covered the social, political, monetary, and more of economics. So, of course modern orthodox economists are often useless because they have been mindf@@@ed into a narrowly defined pseudo-economics that constrains their thinking.

    Restated, the past fifty plus years has seen a steady shrinking and simplifying of economics.

    1. JBird

      What I write in my head does not always reach my fingers.

      but anthropology, especially cultural,

      Should be: …but anthropology, especially cultural, was/is not considered either, but…

  25. Jeremy Grimm

    @JBird tail of thread immediately above: “What I write in my head does not always reach my fingers.”

    I like that!

    I was writing on paper the other day and saw — when I looked — that what I wrote left out much of what I was thinking when I wrote the sentence as well as certain key words in my thought — main noun and part of the verb — that might have made what I wrote into an almost sentence. I feared it were a sign of my aging. Now I can take comfort realizing it signifies the greater speed of thought than writing.

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