Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Crisis of the University Is Political, Not Economic

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For every $100,000 it receives in grants, the U.C. Santa Barbara ends up paying $25,000 for infrastructural support. Where is the University getting that $25,000? Generally not from science departments because they are spending it all. Much of it is made up via the workload budgets of departments with high undergraduate enrollments but lower research budgets—largely the humanities, arts and social sciences. (Thanks, Abdullah.)

There’s more on college budgets here, via Vu:

One thing colleges are spending more on is athletic teams, which have become a more pronounced — and costly — presence on campuses everywhere. Even volleyball teams travel extensively these days, with paid coaches and customized uniforms. Currently, 629 schools have football teams — 132 more than in 1980. And all but 14 of them lose money, including some with national names. It’s true that alumni donations sometimes increase during winning seasons, but most of those gifts go specifically to athletics or other designated uses, not toward general educational programs.

And meanwhile, the cost of sports continues to rise. The average football squad has gone from 82 to 102 players, due to sub-specialties required by esoteric coaching strategies. The number of women’s sports teams has also risen sharply. Since 1980, for example, the number of women’s soccer programs has soared from 80 to 956. And teams cost money — often lots of it. Varsity golf at Duke, open to both genders, costs an estimated $20,405 per player per year. Because there are no revenues for most sports, the deficits often have to be covered by tuition bills.

Another source of increased expense is administration. Since 1980, the number of administrators per student at colleges has about doubled; on most campuses their numbers now match the number of faculty. Here are some of their titles: senior specialist of assessment; director for learning communities; assistant dean of students for substance education; director of knowledge access services.

Needless to say, these officials claim that they offer needed services. Who can be opposed to ensuring access and assessment? But let’s not forget that tuition pays for all these deans and directors; having more of them means higher bills for students.

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