Saturday, March 14, 2015

Colleges Overregulated? No way. Part 2.





By Professor Doom

      So today I’ll look at an official report to congress, written by the Poo Bahs controlling higher education, criticizing all the regulation our institutions receive, in exchange for $160 billion dollars of official federal tax money (and many more billions of tax dollars in other ways).

The compliance problem is exacerbated by the sheer volume of mandates—approximately 2,000 pages of text…”

     Now, I’m no fan of government regulations, and I’m sure most of them are a joke, but let’s put this in perspective. I was at a small school, a few thousand students at most, and, like most schools, there were far more administrators than faculty, well past 50.

      Hmm, 50 administrators. 2,000 pages. So, um, each full time administrator needs to be responsible for 40 pages of material. That doesn’t seem too onerous, especially since administrators get six (or seven) figure salaries in exchange for reading less than a page a week of regulations.

      Seriously, to become qualified in my profession, I, individually, have to demonstrate mastery of thousands of pages of material (calculus textbooks alone break 1,000 pages, and not a lot of folks think government regulations are more complicated than calculus…). And these guys are complaining about being responsible for 40 pages. Larger schools would have even less requirements per administrator.

—and the reality that the Department of Education issues official guidance to amend or clarify its rules at a rate of more than one document per work day…


    And having to read a WHOLE PAGE of text every day is a problem for these guys, too. Why is it any wonder that administration has degraded higher education to the point that most courses don’t ask students to read even 20 pages a week? Ok, the quote is “document”, not “page”…but administration doesn’t have a problem forcing faculty to teach classes so large that faculty would have to read 5 student papers a day (if they made the course legitimate). There’s a touch of hypocrisy here, honest, especially in light of just how many administrators schools have to spread the load of “a document a day” around.

    Seriously, flush the administration already, these guys have no business in higher education, by their own admission.
   
     Let’s see what else the report has to complain about:

Moreover, many regulations are unrelated to education, student safety, or stewardship of federal funds

     Holy cow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I remind the gentle reader that the Poo Bahs of higher education are responsible for accreditation procedures. A line by line analysis of those procedures shows that they are unrelated to education, student safety (seriously, what a stupid issue—admin has no problem screwing over students because “they’re adults”, but now they care about student safety?), or stewardship of federal funds.

     These guys don’t care about education, student safety (!), or stewardship of federal funds…and they have the audacity to complain that others don’t care? Puh-lease.

      The report has a list of demands for future regulations, and they are hysterical demands, considering where they are coming from. Let me address the three funniest:

Regulations should be clear and comprehensible

      Keep in mind, administration can get seriously confused by a child’s t-shirt, and I documented a multi-year struggle to convince administration that “consensus” doesn’t mean the same thing as “average” and that “mutually exclusive” doesn’t mean the same thing as “as much as 33% overlap”, and that 120/5 is 2.4 instead of 2.35…only to be punished for my efforts.
   
      It’s not possible to make regulations clear and comprehensible to a group which is used to words meaning exactly what they want them to mean, no more, no less.

    

The Department (of Education) should recognize good faith efforts by institutions


     Ho ho ho. I’ve documented (and experienced) wild denials of due process by administration in higher education, and the scandals at Penn State and UNC have demonstrated that there’s really no scenario where one can expect good faith efforts from administration.

Penalties should be imposed at a level appropriate to the violation


     Again, I laugh. Anyone recall the government penalties to UNC or Penn State for their violations? I’ll give a hint: nothing. Accreditation has no penalties for violations, none whatsoever. The Poo Bahs want it that way, so you can bet “appropriate” in this case means “absolutely nothing under any circumstances.”

      I’m up to page 4 of this report, which runs over 100 pages. It’s time to start skimming, lest I blow out my vocal chords from laughter at the hypocrisy here.

“…In 1970-71, what was then the U.S. Office of Education awarded roughly 1.6 million grants and loans to low- and middle-income families. In 2013-14, the U.S. Department of Education reported nearly 20 million such awards. The amount of money disbursed grew from $1.6 billion to more than $160 billion. Over that same time period, federal support for research at the National Institutes of Health increased from approximately $1 billion to roughly $30 billion, while funding for the National Science Foundation rose from about $465 million to nearly $7 billion…”

     The above paragraph, from the report, really is demonstrative of the incompetence of our Poo Bahs of higher education. They include the above paragraph to give an idea of the growth of the Federal government…but none of these Poo Bahs have the acumen to look at those numbers and draw conclusions. 

Allow me to do so: 

Spending into higher education has grown from 1.6 billion to 160 billion. A HUNDREDFOLD increase.

Spending at NIH had a THIRTYFOLD increase.

Spending as the NSF had a FIFTEENFOLD increase.

      Hmm, spending on education has increased much, much, more than in other areas. And these Poo Bahs have the audacity to dare complain about being asked to account for the money?
      The whole point of the report is to complain to Congress that higher education isn’t getting fair treatment for the money they get. And the Poo Bahs put, right in the report, everything Congress needs to tell the Poo Bahs to just shut up already.  
     It’s like having a bunch of children the same age, but giving one kid a car, the rest get bicycles. The kid with the car bitterly complains to you that washing the car is harder than washing a bicycle. A responsible parent would seriously consider taking away the car.
     Congress should do something similar regarding all the money being handed to our institutions of higher education…or at least to the institutions of the Poo Bahs who wrote this report.
     Having already screwed up like this, the only hope the report has is if it can show that costs of compliance have increased to ridiculously high levels. You’d need an estimate of compliance costs to run around 120 billion or so; the report doesn’t come close to even making an estimate, instead just flails around with a few lines, later in the report.
      Let’s skip ahead to that:

Stanford spent 7.5 cents of every tuition dollar on compliance…
…Hartwick estimates that the actual cost of compliance could be as much as 7 percent of its non-compensation operating budget…

--page 11

    
     About the same numbers at two different schools, which is something. Hmm, $160 billion of your revenue comes from the Federal government, and 7% of your operating budget involves accounting for that revenue in a way to make your customer, the Federal government, happy. You get the feeling these Poo-Bahs have never operated a legitimate business in their lives? Most businesses would kill for those kinds of numbers, rather than complain to Congress about them.
     Of course, those costs of compliance would be MUCH lower if administrators didn’t award themselves such massive pay for their time satisfying compliance regulations. Feel free to look at 2014 administrative salaries with your own eyes and see that pretty much every administrator clears 100k or more a year…in exchange for the immense responsibility of reading a page of regulations every week. Imagine how much cheaper higher education could be if we got rid of these guys and went back to using academics for administrative functions—academics don’t need to be paid nearly as much to read, we do it all the time anyway!
       Seriously, this is the caliber of people running higher education today. The whole report is filled with such gaffes, I could probably do several more posts on it, but I reckon it’s time to move on to other horrors in higher education.