At Inside Higher Ed this morning, they have a news squib about a new report blaming the high cost of college on “administrative bloat.” Coincidentally, the Dean Dad has a post pre-emptively responding to this in the course of arguing with a different group:
In terms of administration, what would you cut? Should we stop trying to comply with the ADA? Should we stop evaluating faculty altogether, and just trust that everybody is perfect? Perhaps we should stop giving financial aid, since it requires so many staff. Who cares about accreditation? Who cares about IT? Who cares about payroll? (Whoops.)
This is a very common call-and-response game in academic debates. everyone points to an explosion in administrators, while not really accounting for the fact that “administrative staff” includes a lot of critical support staff– most IT departments are classified as administration, for example, as are all the student support services most colleges offer these days– counseling centers, multicultural coordinators, the people who keep track of students with learning disabilities, etc. It’s not all fat salaries for vice presidents– a lot of the administrative budget is stuff that people who complain about “bloat” would hate to lost.
What’s particularly entertaining about this example of synchronicity between IHE and the Dean Dad is that his next paragraph is:
In my experience, carping about “administrative bloat” is similar to Republicans carping about “wasteful government.” It feels good, it gives a common enemy, and it lets you dodge some difficult questions. But until you actually specify what you’re talking about, it’s bluffing.
The study in question? It’s by the Goldwater Institute, and offers as one of it’s main recommendations:
The large and increasing rate of government subsidy for higher education facilitates administrative bloat by insulating students from the costs. Reducing government subsidies would do much to make universities more efficient.
It’s almost too perfect to be real…
(To be fair, now, I suspect that the Goldwater Institute would also oppose most of the Federal mandates for things like counseling and academic support services, so they’re not wildly hypocritical. Just wildly unrealistic.)