There’s no way to point to one reason alone as being the sole cause of soaring tuition costs. It’s a vast mosaic, which when viewed as whole gives us the big picture of the student loan crisis. It can be helpful, however, to pull those pieces apart in order to better understand the whole and to work on fixing the problems within each piece. This is a method that can be helpful in understanding all kinds of phenomena: recently researchers conducted a study to assess language development in autistic kids. While it’s known that autistic kids do have impaired language development, by pulling the big picture apart, the researchers discovered that these afflicted kids could understand more stimuli than they could express. This new knowledge will help in developing new treatment methods. So let’s apply the same logic to student loans by looking at one part of the problem in the hope of illuminating the whole. Administrative bloat may not be the only cause of high tuition rates, but it’s one big area of strain.
A number of inquiries have been conducted recently in different university systems, assessing how big a problem administrative bloat really is. One inquiry, conducted by the Wall Street Journal on the University of Minnesota, checked out employment records dating back to 2001 and reaching as far forwards as spring of 2012. It seems that the University added about 1,000 new administrators during that eleven-year period; that’s a 37% increase in administrators. By comparison, the teaching force and student body each grew at about half that pace during the same period. According to the Department of Education, those percentages are about on par with the rest of the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that it’s one big cause of tuition rates being as high as they are.
For further evidence, last year the Platt Institute conducted a study analyzing the University of Nebraska system; part of the study focused on administrative bloat within the University. The researchers found administrative costs to be rising faster than the state average. The study also makes recommendations as to how the school could cut some costs: “…particularly as far as students’ education is concerned, administrative staff largely only play an indirect role in meeting the educational mission. If there is anything ripe for pruning, administrative spending and staffing in higher education is certainly it.”
While solving such a large problem as unfeasible tuition and student loans doesn’t have an easy answer, cutting administrative bloat seems like a great place to start. For students currently looking to lessen the pressure of the student debt squeeze, there are student aid organizations equipped to help manage debt.