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January 17 2020

Small College, Big Spender: A Case Study in Why College Costs Too Much

by Charlotte Hays

Although the cost of attending Idaho’s Boise State University is small in comparison to that of more famous institutions, Boise suffers from the same malady that plagues almost all U.S colleges: tuition bloat.

BSU’s tuition rose from $3,520 in 2004 to $7,694 in 2018. If inflation were the driving force, the cost for 2018 would have been only $4,647.

A popular argument for rising tuition is that government has pulled back in funding. Students, according to this theory, must bear the brunt of the loss. As with most universities, however, BSU has no right to make this claim.

The state legislature has boosted spending on BSU by 105 percent—from around  $250 million to $545 million—from 2005 to 2018. The federal government also has been generous to BSU. Federal largesse accounted for about $22 million in 2018.

So why is tuition going up? Could it be that the small school is . . .  spending too much money? Scott Yenor, a political science professor at BSU, suggests as much in an article in City Journal. Yenor writes: 

Excessive spending seems a likelier explanation for these big increases than diminished state support. Overall, BSU’s budget grew from around $250 million in the mid-2000s to nearly $550 million today, an increase of well over 100 percent, while full-time enrollment has expanded only 21 percent.

BSU spends some of this bounty on athletics.  It also spends on student services, including cultural events and a diversity apparatus, which have increased by 214 percent over the same period. The budgetary portion dedicated to instruction fell to just above 26 percent, from 32 percent in the mid-2000s.

Layers of “institutional support” further drive up costs (5.6 percent of the budget in 2004, compared with 8.8 percent last year). Between the 2004 and 2018 academic years, the number of highly paid administrators increased from 29 to 44, while the managerial and professional staff more than doubled, from 255 to 543. If we exclude those associated with athletics, 65 employees at Boise State earn an average of $181,000—more than Governor Brad Little.

My bolding.

Yenor concludes:

BSU exemplifies how increased infusions of grants, federal funds, and state funding never lead to lower tuition. Instead, they create administrative bloat, mission creep, expensive sinecures, and overstaffing. Hourly employees become professional staff, with even greater prestige granted to deans and provosts. The BSU story gets replayed in nearly every state.

Just want to add a word on that diversity apparatus. Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, looked into the cost of diversity administrators at Michigan. He estimated that his university employed more than 100 diversity administrators, with more than 25 pulling down salaries of more than $100,000 a year. With fringe benefits, they are costing the University of Michigan around $11 million a year.

Does anybody seriously think that, without a vast diversity apparatus, American institutions of higher learning would sink into a morass of prejudice?

But any move to reduce the diversity bureaucracy, which would fight for its lucrative jobs, would be greeted with cries of discrimination.

 





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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