Murphy’s Law: Expensive tuition? Thank your bloated administration

The meteoric rise in tuition recently is an important issue across the nation. Tufts’ roughly $70,000 bill increases by around 4 percent annually, more than double the national rate of inflation. The university explains these increases as being driven by innovation and expansion, but they are really caused by poor management: administrative bloat.

While traditional businesses benefit from economies of scale (as production increases, the per unit cost decreases), American universities experience the opposite, spending more per student as enrollment increases, particularly on administrative expenses. Unlike a normal business, which must keep prices low, so consumers purchase its products, universities make most of their income from gifts and grants. Elite schools do not compete on the price or quality of their service, but rather their reputation and network. With no incentives to minimize costs, incredible demand and the upkeep of student loans, universities are free to run up costs on non-academic employees.

According to George Mason University’s Todd Zywicki and Christopher Koopman, from 2001-2011, administrative hires have increased 50 percent faster than classroom instructors. At the same time, tenured faculty positions continue to disappear. On average, there are now 2.5 nonacademic employees for every full-time, tenure track faculty member at private colleges. Imagine the McDonald’s CEO hires two managers to observe and coach each cashier. How quickly do you think he would be fired?

Universities claim these nonacademic employees meet growing student demands, yet their work is so nonessential that most students do not know they exist. They have not improved academics either. Since 2002, the percent of four-year-degree students completing their education within six years only rose 3 percent. No business would hire employees that do not increase profits so why are we hiring people that do not improve education?

Bureaucrats at Tufts are why students struggle to get accurate information about the people we pay and why every request takes comically long to complete. They are responsible for the committee and buzzword fetishes that handicap progress. In a 2012 white paper on about higher education spending, Bain analysts wrote “In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate – executives would lose their jobs.” I agree.

Tufts is no exception to this epidemic of irresponsible management. To be an efficient, effective school, we should not be laying off janitors, cutting faculty benefits, hiring adjuncts and raising tuition. We should be emptying out Ballou and rationalizing our labor force. Ask yourself, who has made an impact in your student experience? Professors, coaches, dining services, facilities, career services, TUPD; these people actually make a difference to education and student life. At Tufts, nonacademic employees operate offices of empty promises, incompetence and deliberate delays. Tufts needs to eradicate administrative bloat by cutting administrators and those not directly impacting the student experience. If Tufts wants to help high-achieving, low-income students, let’s make Tufts more accessible by eliminating low-achieving, high-income administrators. Sadly, these people are more interested in maintaining their jobs than making Tufts more accessible.

If you agree, voice your concerns. Tufts is hosting a town hall with President Anthony Monaco, Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell and Provost David Harris on Nov. 30.