California students, parents and taxpayers know from the hits to their pocketbooks that public higher education in the state has grown remarkably more expensive in recent years.
They don’t need a study to prove that bottom line, but the California State Auditor in April released one anyway, focusing solely on the California State University system. Though other colleges are not specifically studied, because of the number of campuses in the vast CSU, it’s no stretch to reckon that what caused expenses to rise there are the same forces causing spending increases elsewhere.
No, knockers of the professors who toil in the halls of academe, it’s not high academic salaries that are driving the increase. Mostly, it’s a massive increase in hiring and spending on middle managers in nonacademic departments.
And, no, mom, pop and junior, students and parents are by no means left off the hook. For decades, they have pushed for plusher dorms, better dining halls and programs that make the university experience a better one, from Title IX equality for women to health care to separate departments aimed at keeping students from dropping out. All of that costs money. If we want to pare university costs, we have to lower our expectations about what our students get out of higher education.
Analyzing the report and extrapolating it beyond the CSU, Chronicle of Higher Education writer Audrey Williams June boils it down to five forces that drive academic bloat:
Students and their families want more out of the college experience. Student success is a high-stakes game. Colleges are hunting for more sources of money (and it takes money to hire fundraisers). Accountability work is a full-time job, ensuring that federal and state mandates are met. And the kick in the head, one those in the private sector know as well: Bureaucracy begets bureaucracy.
“A growing organization is fertile ground for an expansion of bureaucracy,” June writes. “That’s because hiring more people…