Thursday, June 19, 2014

Government Regulations Killing Education? Part 2

By Professor Doom

So last time I examined an essay by a very highly paid administrator (paid to the tune of $650,000 a year) who insists that it isn’t highly paid administration that’s the reason for high tuition. Instead, he claims it’s all the regulations that must followed.

The first part of his essay disregarded that those regulations came from so much administrative abuse, and disregarded that if following NCAA regulations cost too much, institutions could just stop throwing away money on useless sports programs that do nothing for education and research. I emphasize that “education and research” part because taxpayers are told to surrender their tax money to support institutions for education and research…the institutions promise to do so in writing; you can check the mission statement of any institution of higher education and you’ll see nothing there saying the goal is to put together a great sportsball team (or to provide ridiculously high paying jobs to administrators).

$650,000 a year for this level of honesty and intellectual acumen. The essay then heads into train-wreck territory:

Legitimate concerns about keeping every student safe and secure, including complying with the federal Clery Act crime-reporting requirement, are another driver of tuition costs. Recently, President Obama announced his intention to hold colleges more accountable for how they handle allegations of rape on their campuses. This drives increases in security as well as legal and student-life staff.”

I’m guessing the administrator doesn’t even know about the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State? While his tears here might be sincere, realize that if college administrators acted with integrity, we wouldn’t have these laws (futilely) trying to get them to do things that decent human beings do, like properly report rapes and such, instead of covering them up. 

As I discussed earlier in my blog, it’s the administrator’s job to cover up horrible crimes on campus, since if knowledge of those crimes got out, it would cut into growth and retention, the true goals of administration (because, again, more growth means more pay for the administrator)…I maintain that we need administrators with integrity and devotion to the students; we used to get such administrators by drawing from the faculty for short terms, rather than hiring from the roving pool of mercenaries out for plunder. The regulations making students “safe and secure” are due to how much harm our current type of administration has done to students.

So, yes, it’s a shame that there’s now a crime-reporting law for administration…but they brought that on themselves by not reporting serious crimes like humans would do. Again I ask why should students be punished for administrative misbehavior?
There’s also a bit of hypocrisy here. He’s worried about student safety? Most of those risks come from the bloatedness of institutions that have focused on growth above all else: small schools just don’t have the same level of crime problems as large schools. If administration hadn’t sacrificed everything for growth, this wouldn’t be a concern.

Actually, there’s hypocrisy on top of hypocrisy. Administration cares about student safety, but has no problem signing up students for lifetimes of debt that they can never hope to repay? If he cared about students, he’d probably stop making it so easy for students to destroy themselves with student loans.

I find myself drowning in crocodile tears here.
The essay continues to try to make a case:

Here is our latest one—not driven by law but by federal administrative fiat. It calls for the establishment of a central complaint system for all military and veteran students and requires every institution to identify a single point of contact for all complaints. That person must also document every complaint, record the actions to respond to the complaint and resolve it, as well as the outcome, all subject to federal scrutiny by several agencies. Who will do this work?

Here, the Poo-Bah almost has a point. A strange federal law giving priority treatment to our veterans…considering the shoddy treatment vets get, medically, I think it’s a puny gesture by the federal government. It’s a shame the administrator begrudges our veterans even that.

Unfortunately, accreditation ALREADY has rules for student complaints, at every institution there’s already someone responsible for documenting complaints (see, for example, section 4.5 on SACS Principles of Accreditation ). For $650,000 a year, the Poo-Bah should know this is only a minor adjustment to rules his institution (which, being in Florida, is part of SACS) should already be following. 

Whoever is already doing the job for all students, now has to put a note (or maybe just a “V”) by the complaints that come from the students that are veterans. Big deal, cry me a river, man. 

The train-wreck continues:

I could go on with more examples, but I hope I have made my point.”

Actually, his examples of the NCAA and veteran complaints demonstrate surprising ignorance for $650,000 a year, and don’t make the point at all. His statements regarding oversight illustrate a strange blind spot regarding administration’s role in the corruption of higher education, and the myriad of regulations that are trying to at least slow it down.

“Too much government” is an easy point to make in just about every aspect of American life, but he’s not managing it, somehow.

Much, but certainly not all, of the much-maligned "administrative bloat" is driven by external forces, societal demands, and regulations from the federal government, the states, the NCAA, accreditors, and insurers.”

Normally one restates the thesis near the end of the essay, but he’s jumped the gun a little here. I’m not convinced he’s done much of a job arguing his case. Luckily, my Libertarian leanings make it easy for me to concede that at least a small part of the unnecessary bloat is due to government.

On the other hand, consider all the academic fields that have sprung up and grown in the last few decades. Computers, robotics, genetics, environmental studies, even, yes, God forgive me for including it, gender studies and white-people-are-evil studies departments, just to name a few new fields. And yet, there’s no comparable faculty growth at all. A much stronger case could be made that there should be faculty bloat, to cover all the new fields that exist now…and yet there is no such bloat.

In times past, faculty made up the majority of people working on campus; now faculty are a minority, a small minority when one considers most college courses are taught by minimally paid part time laborers that don’t even count as faculty in many ways.

Hmm, there are an awful lot of dogs-that-didn’t-bark in this essay. Could this $650,000 a year administrator really not know all this stuff?

The train-wreck continues:

Higher education is regulated by every cabinet-level department and numerous subagencies.”

Yes, the education bloat goes higher than just the institutions, I’ve mentioned that before, and I’m not sure what he’s getting at, as he might get one of the stupidly-high paid department jobs he’s complaining about. This has nothing to do with the thesis, since the expense here isn’t paid via tuition (instead, it’s your tax dollars at non-work). Yikes, he’s floundering here.

Next, the $650,000 a year administrator states an unsourced fact. Let’s take it as truth:

One small private college documented that 106 employees logged 7,200 hours completing federal compliance forms.

Let’s do some math on those 106 employees spending 7,200 hours on federal compliance. That’s about 68 hours for each employee, so two weeks of work. Seeing as there are 52 weeks in the year, the Poo-Bah has made an excellent point about how there are way too many administrators here. What, pray tell, are these 106 administrators doing the other 50 weeks of the year?

I’ve discussed some of the make-work these guys perform to fill time, but the Poo-Bah’s example here shows that they use 106 people to do the work of at most 5 people…a whole building on campus to do the work of a handful of people. He’s making an excellent point about how bad the bloat is.

Oh wait, he’s using this example to show that there’s too much regulation, not realizing that he accidentally gave too much information (i.e., the number of employees) so we can see how there are too many administrators. 

$650,000 a year for this.

The rest of his essay is crowing from the $650,000 a year administrator about how he’s working hard to keep costs down. Good for him that he’s doing something to be proud of. I encourage the gentle reader to see with his own eyes I’m leaving nothing of consequence out.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the reality of the Poo-Bah’s institutional tax forms, to get a better idea of the oceans of crocodile tears disgorging from the man’s eyes.