Monday, April 6, 2015

Times Change

So this NY Times article says that college education is so expensive because of increases in administrative costs, not because of decreasing state support.

Slate rebuts, saying it IS because of declining state support, but still talks about "administrative bloat."

However, neither take into account the realities of higher education today. Think pieces like these love to tout the anecdotes that our grandparents or even parents could go to college on their savings from their summer jobs, yada yada.

What is never really outlined is that anything other than instructional functions are labeled administrative.  Anything. So when you're referring to administration, it's not just the Assistant to the Associate Vice Provost or whatever is the conventional wisdom, it's the oh, let's say, ENTIRE information technology unit that didn't exist when our grandparents went to college.   It's the army of academic advisors that help students figure out what's a VPLA versus a W versus a linked versus a global studies requirement.  It's the financial aid offices that help students figure out Pell grants and federal work study and state work study and everything else.  Health Centers are non-instructional.  Libraries have non-instructional budgets, and you know what, online databases and subscriptions cost money.

Higher education is orders of magnitude more complex than it was in 1960 (why is that the banner year for comparison?) and complaining about non-instructional budgets just demonstrates a lack of understanding of how college actually works.  We could go back to using typewriters and course catalogs of 57 courses total, sure. That would get costs back down. But who would want to?

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