Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cut Student Debt by Firing the President

By Professor Doom

     I’ve ranted more than a few times about the wildly overpaid administration in higher education. I’ve advanced the notion that if administration weren’t paid such stupid-huge sums, we probably could afford to pay faculty a living wage, and wouldn’t need to put students in a lifetime of debt for college coursework that is, for the most part, worthless.

     But why should such a basic theory be just a rant on my part? No need, since a recent study shows that, indeed, there may be a link between administrative pay and student debt. No. Freakin’. Kidding.

     Let’s take a look at some key results of the study, which looked at the top 25 public universities with the highest executive pay:

Average executive pay at the top 25 rose to nearly $1 million by 2012 — increasing more than twice as fast as the national average at public research universities.

Hey, I’m all for capitalism, but this is “winner take all” capitalism. The guy at the top gets a fortune, and the guys that do the work get very little.

But hey, at least Bill Gates and super-capitalists like him did something amazing. The average university president just has a semi-bogus at best administrative degree, never did any research or teaching, and, from what I can tell from speaking with them and seeing their writing, doesn’t really know what’s going on.

And these guys have an average pay of a million bucks a year…at public, non-profit, universities. These guys have *nothing* to do with education, giving them a million dollars a year for their work in education is like giving the guy who shines Bill Gates’ shoes a million bucks a year for his work in computers.

Even more insulting than the winner-take-all capitalism is…there’s no capitalism here. These are public institutions, serving the public good. I’m paid very little, I’m told, because I’m performing public service. Fair enough, but why do the bosses get so much? They’re performing public service, too, right? Well, wrong, as their primary service seems to be screwing over young people as violently as possible.

There’s something very wrong here. The money being poured into higher education is just going to the guys at the top, there’s no trickle down here, if anything the money has just incited the greed of these plunderers.

Let’s look at more highlights from the study:

At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, permanent faculty declined dramatically as a percentage of all faculty. By fall 2009, part-time and contingent faculty at the top 25 outnumbered permanent faculty for the first time.

You’d think the rapidly rising tuition would be enough to pay for the administrative caste, but they’re not content with screwing over the students, they screw the faculty too. Faculty are already a minority on campus, being outnumbered by non-education workers (i.e., administrators and administrative support). Permanent faculty are now a minority in the minority, being outnumbered now by minimally paid adjunct workers making $10,000 or less a year.

All that taxpayer money pouring into education, and less goes to educators now than before the student loan scheme started, while students get saddled with massive debt for worthless degrees. Talk about unintended consequences. Education was clearly better before all this money was dumped on it to “improve education.” Most college coursework is at the high school level or lower, after all.

At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, part-time adjunct faculty increased 22 percent faster than the national average at all universities.

Read this carefully: the more you pay the Poo-Bah, the less goes to education. Get rid of the useless Poo-Bah, and there would be more money to hire educators.

The student debt crisis is worse at state schools with the highest-paid presidents. The sharpest rise in student debt at the top 25 occurred when executive compensation soared the highest.

Read this real careful: the more money that goes to the Poo-Bah, the worse off the students are. Pay the president more, means you must raise tuition more, and students get hurt more.

Get rid of the useless Poo-Bah already. I’ve been in higher education for over twenty years, and not once have I seen a Poo-Bah *do* anything that the students could remotely care about, much less do anything worth a million dollars or more a year in salary.

It’s not just salary, by the way. Poo-Bahs get ridiculous perks, like jet planes, a free house, gigantic travel budgets, and other absurd considerations.

As students went deeper in debt, administrative spending outstripped scholarship spending by more than 2 to 1 at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.

One more time: the more money that goes to the Poo-Bah, the more money that goes into administration, and the less that goes into scholarship (i.e., research). All institutions swear that their mission is to promote education and research, but it’s clear that many institutions just think their mission is to increase administrative pay as rapidly as possible.

So, in FIVE different ways, the study says that the way to help students avoid crushing student loan debt for worthless degrees is to get rid of the ridiculously overpaid Poo-Bahs.

It’s shameful that when Kim Kardashian wears a prostitute outfit while pushing her baby carriage, it’s all over the news (I’m embarrassed to include the link, but I want to emphasize I’m not joking)…while real information that could help tens of millions of young people is unlikely to make it any further than my blog.

Not that anyone in power would do anything about it anyway.


  1. Professor Blog, I just wanted to say how much I admire and appreciate what you're doing here with your blog, it takes a great deal of personal courage and integrity to expose this fraud and waste to public attention. In fact, you've been an inspiration to me that I'm resigning from a low-level peon position to go after these deceptive and parasitic administrators in my own way, that being stand-up comedy. Someone needs to pull back the curtain on these charlatans and snake oil salesmen, their actions are betraying the trust that students, parents and the public have placed in them. They need to feel some heat, they are inflicting much pain and misery on students for as you say, pretty much a worthless degree that imperils their future. No change will come from within the system, fear rules and they screen for docile and compliant personalities that will not rock the boat. Don't know how we made it past the screening process, but we did. Again, thank you for being truthful and honest. By the way, a writer from The Chronicle of Higher Education contacted me about an article he's writing about the waste and explosion of student services in higher education. I referred him to your blog and he promised to call me and speak to me at length about my experience. Let's see what happens with that.

  2. Well, I made it past because I was the only qualified application; for some reason, admin thought that maybe there should be 1 guy with a math degree teaching math at the college (currently, there is nobody there qualified to teach math, not that it's stopping them).

    Thanks for passing my name on, hope it makes a difference.

  3. I've noticed this at my alma mater. The outgoing president is paid close to a million dollars a year and lives in a house that's worth about as much.

    Ever since she took over, tuitions have been jacked up to the point that a year's worth could more than pay for what I shelled out for my B. Sc. in the mid-1970s.

    At the same time, the campus is a massive construction site. There's hardly an empty space left that hasn't been churned up and concrete poured on it. But the work isn't necessarily of good quality. I've heard stories about one building that opened a few years ago and already things have gone wrong, such as decorative glass panes shattering.

    But that president also had some wild dreams for the university and I, and probably all my fellow alumni, was given the annual shake-down for donations. I flatly refused because those expenditures weren't essential to the operation of the institution but to satisfy the president's vanity.

    She's leaving when her term expires. Good riddance, I say. She took what was a nice place and turned it into a degree factory that has awful architecture. She was hired from elsewhere and parachuted in, so she had no sense of nostalgia towards the university. However, she leaves office soon and I wouldn't be surprised if she's already got a number of corporate directorships lined up. Why not--all that schmoozing for company donations has to have some reward, right?

    1. She sounds like another graduate of the Seagull School of management. It rather touches something I've thought about writing about--the female leader. It's so funny that I've been in higher education for over 25 years now, in a field where the degrees and classes are dominated by males (99% or so)...and of those 25 years, there have been only 4 where I didn't answer to a female. I'm not sexist or anything, but it's queer how these types of arguments are used to show racism/sexism in one direction, but never the other.

    2. She displays a characteristic that is all too common among chief administrators nowadays. Administrators want to leave their mark, no matter of whether it's beneficial or ugly and cumbersome.

      Often it's the latter and people usually agree about it. They would like that legacy removed but the administrator in charge would often become enormously unpopular for dismantling it. It may be ugly, it may be cumbersome and awkward, but it's *theirs* and they benefit from having it in place.

      But that's how graduates of the SSM get away with their antics. They know that what they do will rarely be undone as it'll be too expensive or inconvenient for their successors to get rid of it.