I'm not going to bullshit you: college is big business. It's an industry, and just like any other industry, from porn to fast food, it's there to make money. And colleges are very, very good at making money, and maybe even better at spending it. Over 325 billion dollars last year was spent by higher education. But hey, let's not get too negative here. More money in the hands of colleges means more professors, more classes, more students and more research right?
Or....maybe just a flood of "administrators". They're almost as prevalent on campus as the faculty ? the vice presidents, associate vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, provosts, associate provosts, vice provosts, assistant provosts, deans, deanlets, and deanlings. Over the last few decades, the amount of professors employed by higher education has increased by a little over fifty percent, fairly well in line with the rise of the student population. The number of administrators and administrative staffers employed by schools though? Increased by 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively. And that's not even keeping track of the "other professionals" that are on the school payroll, who aren't faculty or paper-pushers, like attorneys and "human resource officers". But hey, maybe I'm just an asshole; plenty of people working at desk jobs slave away for pennies, I'm sure what they make is nothing compared to that impressive professor's salary.
Well damn. If you've kept up with the rising costs of college at all, you'll know that between 1998 and 2003 were some of the worst years of retrenchment and tuition hikes. Bad times for students, sure, but bad times all around? Not in the slightest. During these five years, administrator salaries rose by about fifty percent. It's not odd to see a dean making a six-figure salary, while nearly half the professors in the nation are employed only part-time. At some point, even the die-hardest college-loving frat boy has to admit this is getting ridiculous, particularly when you hear about the kind of things these additional staffers and increased pay is going towards. Look up some up your school's committees. A popular money pit is the "Committee on Traditions", a group of bureaucrats who meet to either rediscover or invent new school traditions. It's startlingly unnecessary. All the best traditions, like blacking out and puking in the dormitory bathroom, having sex with someone you'll never see again, and puking on someone you want to have sex with, are all student-motivated and no one has ever had to pay someone a five-digit salary to do it (well, depending on who you're fucking I suppose). Another great one is the "War Zones Task Force", which is a name I would've given to an elite cadre of special ops soldiers. In this cruel world however, it's a group of bored deans who discourage students from traveling in war torn areas. I can hardly imagine what's more awkward and redundant, having the school remind you that war is hazardous to your health or needing an entire group to reach this conclusion. I could go on and on about the money down the drain, but it wouldn't answer the biggest question here: Why?
And the answer is simple. Because they can. At no point during these expenditures has any college struggled to find students. Look at the yearly tuitions of these schools: Georgetown (Washington, D.C.), $39,036; Gettysburg (Pa.), $39,200; Haverford (Pa.), $39,085; Mount Holyoke (South Hadley, Mass.), $39,126; Pitzer (Los Angeles), $39,332. Notice anything? These schools are on different coasts, in different environments, and offer different services. But as along as parents will keep paying that 39k, where's the incentive to charge for anything less? Administrative services create a buffer for college politics, separating students and faculty from decision-making processes. An army of paperwork prevents meaningful change, and masks expenses. It's not uncommon for administrators to go on off-campus retreats; during my searching I found that they discussed such valuable topics as "Do You Want to Succeed?", "Reflective Resensitizing", and "Waking Up the Inner World." Forty years ago, faculty were the administrators. Maybe that's not possible now, but something needs to change or students, particularly from low income and middle class families will keep being extorted. Federal higher education policy has been focused on financial aid to students without tying such aid to institutional performance. Ergo, they've been doing the same thing they do with high school: shoveling money at problem areas without thinking about the problem. More money doesn't mean better schools, more involvement and better teachers mean better schools. That aid has benefited campuses and the financial industry, but all too often has left students out in the cold.