NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Higher Education Administrative Costs Are Skyrocketing

January 19, 2015

President Obama has proposed giving students two free years of community college education, but sending more federal dollars to schools is unlikely to do anything more than raise the cost of college tuition. As the federal government's student loan program has demonstrated, schools that know they can count on government money have responded by raising their tuition costs from year to year. 

It's no secret that college has gotten expensive. Between the 2008-2009 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, tuition and fees jumped 27 percent. But where is the extra money going? In a new report, Farhad Mirzadeh, research associate with the National Center for Policy Analysis, says it's not going to instruction -- it's going to administration.

Colleges have seen huge increases in the number of people on their staffs: from 2000 to 2012, the public and private education workforce increased by 28 percent. The rise in administrative staff (Mirzadeh notes that colleges have hired 87 administrative and professional workers every day from 1987 to 2012) means that colleges have to spend more money on salaries, benefits and pensions. And growing numbers of administrative staff are not the only thing that schools are spending money on: colleges are spending gobs of money renovating their campuses and building luxury dorms.

Mirzadeh says the rise in administrative spending has led colleges to cut instruction costs by hiring increasing numbers of adjunct (part-time) faculty to teach various classes -- today, half of the higher education faculty consists of adjunct professors. Mirzadeh contends this trend is bad for education, because adjunct faculty tend to work other jobs and have less time for students or course preparation.

With tuition costs continuing to rise, Mirzadeh says that students and families will likely begin questioning the value of a college education.

Source: Farhad Mirzadeh, "The Higher Education Bubble," National Center for Policy Analysis, January 2015.  


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