Year after year, media note and sometimes bemoan the ballooning cost of higher education.
There is no doubt that the human costs of this rise are severe: Some 44 million Americans currently carry nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and the delinquency rate is 11 percent.
There are various reasons for surging costs, but the primary one is the remarkable expansion of university administration in recent decades. As Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, wrote in the New York Times a few years ago:
“According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.
Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.”
Universities are large and require administrators to function, of course. The problem is there seems to be no end to the expansion. This point was recently illustrated by Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Perry, who also is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, used the University of Michigan as an example to highlight the rise of “diversicrats” (diversity bureaucrats) on today’s campuses. The numbers are astonishing.
1. The University of Michigan currently employs a diversity staff of nearly 100 (93) full-time diversity administrators, officers, directors, vice-provosts, deans, consultants, specialists, investigators, managers, executive assistants, administrative assistants, analysts, and coordinators.
2. More than one-quarter (26) of these “diversicrats” earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and the total payroll for this small army is $8.4 million. When you add to cash salaries an estimated 32.45% for UM’s very generous fringe benefit package for the average employee in this group (retirement, health care, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, paid leave, paid vacation, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc.) the total employee compensation for this group tops $11 million per year. And of course that doesn’t count the cost of office space, telephones, computers and printers, printing, postage, programs, training, or travel expenses.
If you fell out of your chair upon realizing that the University of Michigan has a full-time diversity staff of nearly one hundred employees, one of whom earns more than the president of the United States, you can be forgiven. I nearly did too.
We’ve previously noted that the diversity movement is taking on certain aspects of religious faith. It appears, however, that we missed a similarity: Like the priests of ancient Egypt who amassed huge fortunes for themselves and the medieval popes who sold forgiveness and indulgences, the diversity faithful have found profit in their beliefs.
In many ways the modern American university resembles the medieval cathedral—something that began as beautiful but became a monstrosity when its true purpose was lost.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.