The U's failing grade for fiscal management

  • Article by: CHARLES LANE , Washington Post
  • Updated: January 6, 2013 - 6:30 AM

Exhibit A on administrative bloat: The U.

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elmore1Jan. 2, 13 8:29 PM

Mr Kaler was brought in to make significant improvements to the U and hasn't produced yet. This bloated beast needs to be reformed (major cuts, restructuring, automation and innovation) for the sake of our kids and bank accounts. Seems like every couple of months a new skeleton emerges...

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alansonJan. 2, 13 8:45 PM

This could be a cheap shot by the Wall Street Journal (echoed by Charles Lane in the Washington Post) based on cherry-picked data. For one thing (in Kaler's defense) it's an incontrovertible fact that state support for the university has waned in recent years - it's easier to raise tuition at the U than to contol the growth of state-subsidized health care entitlements. On the other hand I don't expect to hear an open discussion on this topic by the Minnesota establishment. We need less "Minnesota nice" and more serious candor about the role the university is expected to play in the second decade of the 21st century.

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sek2undrstndJan. 2, 13 8:46 PM

From the book "Why Does College Cost So Much"; Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman. "Busting the Myths Surrounding Rising College Costs The dysfunction narrative is the alternative tale of rising cost, and it is a sexier story with lots of villains. But it doesn’t fit the evidence very well. In this brief space I cannot address every part of that narrative, but a few choice nuggets of information should suffice. Competition: If prestige competition were a driving engine of college cost, we would expect to see cost rising more rapidly in four-year schools than at community colleges. Four-year programs house the expensive research facilities and hire the superstar scholars. Yet the growth rate in expenditures per student at four-year and two-year programs is quite similar. Administrative Bloat: Within the dysfunction narrative, any increase in the number of “administrators per student” is often taken as evidence of inefficiency. This notion is flawed on at least two grounds. Schools have dramatically reduced their clerical employment, and this raises the percentage of the employee base that is administrative. This is not a sign of inefficiency. At the same time, schools have added professional staff in everything from IT to counseling. But these same shifts are happening almost everywhere in the U.S. economy. The percentage of Americans who work in jobs classified as administrative has risen substantially over the last quarter century. This context is often missing from bloat stories, as is the benefit to student retention rates and graduation rates from the professionalized support staff available to help them. Tenure: Lastly, faculty tenure and workplace culture have very little to do with college cost. For starters, tenure is a declining institution. The fraction of the faculty on tenure track has fallen steadily over the past few decades, especially at cash-strapped public institutions. Although the academy is not a particularly efficient institution, there is no good evidence that it has become more inefficient over time."

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sek2undrstndJan. 2, 13 8:49 PM

ibid; "The Realities Are More Complex The most important engine of cost growth in higher education is the fact that productivity growth in some industries, like manufacturing, has outstripped productivity growth in others, including artisan services like higher education. But this effect does not necessarily make college less affordable to the average family. Productivity growth, after all, adds to the nation’s income. To understand college affordability problems, we must look elsewhere. Two features of the economic landscape have had a big effect on affordability. The first is a sea change in budget priorities in the states. In 1975, states allocated roughly $10.50 to higher education for every $1,000 of per capita state income. Today the figure is around $6.00, despite a massive increase in the number of students seeking postsecondary education. This type of budgeting has resulted in tuition increases at public universities, which have negatively impacted the availability and quality of their academic programs. The effect on affordability is clear. In 1975, the states picked up 60% of the tab for a year in college while families shouldered 33%. The federal government picked up the remaining 7%. Today, the states pay only 34% while families bear 50% of the cost. The federal government’s share, through grants and tax credits, is currently 16%. Much of this surge in the federal government’s share is a temporary response to the 2008 financial crisis and recession. Over the last 30 years, the federal share has normally been in the 10% range. Over the same span of years, the income distribution in the United States has changed dramatically. This is another major force for creating affordability problems in higher education. In the 1960s, an average person with a high school diploma could live a comfortable, middle-income lifestyle. That statement no longer holds true. As people who were once solidly middle class find themselves falling further down the distributional ladder, their children increasingly find a college education more difficult to finance."

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roymercerJan. 2, 13 8:52 PM

In my lifetime there has never been a government cut. The U is likely to be no exception.

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erikj3Jan. 2, 13 8:54 PM

There is no reason why it should cost $13,000 (more if you count room and board) to go to a PUBLIC university. None. Meanwhile, taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions on a stadium for a billionaire who doesn't even live here. Outrageous.

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ranger78Jan. 2, 13 8:56 PM

I have asked my elected officials to get the Legislature to do a line by line review of the U of MN (along with the entire state) budget. The intent would be to fully understand where all the money goes, what is absolutely necessary and what is fluff. Crickets is the response I get. We have been ill-informed and flat out lied to by the U of MN officials and legislature. We need to demand accountability.

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jpcooperJan. 2, 13 9:14 PM

ranger78 "I have asked my elected officials to get the Legislature to do a line by line review of the U of MN (along with the entire state) budget"

Add the Federal budget to that as well! Although none of our elected officials would champion that cause, cowards!

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bgronniJan. 2, 13 9:27 PM

Who do they answer to? Tuition is way too high. it is almost like a mortgage now that people have to pay off. that is, if they can find jobs to do so.

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fwallenJan. 2, 13 9:42 PM

This report is not news. This U can not be sustained as it is. It must be reformed. Zero based budgeting should be demanded by the legislature before any appropriation. The powers over at the U will not reform until there is no money. The great irony is the U that Minnesotans are often proud of receives mediocre rankings. Some departments and programs don't even make it into published rankings. The Carlson School which is heavily promoted receives rankings below institutions with much lower costs. It usually ranks somewhere between 23rd best and 40th best in the country! Nothing to brag about.

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