Brown puts Dartmouth to shame

Years ago, I mentioned to a prominent Bush administration official with an Ivy League background that my daughter was applying to Dartmouth and Brown. “They’re equally bad,” he responded.

I was unwilling then, and remain so even now, to accept the idea that Dartmouth is as “bad” as Brown. But Joe Asch demonstrates that in one important respect Dartmouth is worse.

Joe shows that Dartmouth is significantly more bloated, and thus more costly to run, than Brown.

Let’s start with the absolute numbers. Brown costs only $729,182,000 to run each year; Dartmouth costs $835,273,000. But are the two institutions so similarly situated as to justify this comparison? Actually they aren’t. There are important differences.

Unfortunately, the differences should make Dartmouth less expensive to operate than Brown, not more:

Brown now has 36% more students than Dartmouth (8,619 vs. 6,342), but in many ways it is similar to the College. Both schools have far more undergrads than grad students, and Brown and Dartmouth do a similar amount of sponsored research: $162,286,000 at Brown; $181,517,000 at Dartmouth. Neither institution has a law school; both have relatively small medical schools.

However, Brown has the misfortune of being in a city where doing business can be costly. Providence has a much higher crime rate than rural New Hampshire, and therefore Brown has 80 campus police on staff, a portion of whom are trained officers of the law carrying guns and with arrest powers; all these employees are better paid than Dartmouth’s 35 Campus Po security guards. Rhode Island has a 7% sales tax; there is none in New Hampshire. And Rhode Island has a 7% state income tax; New Hampshire has none. Real estate is more costly in Providence, as are services and labor.

Brown has a larger faculty than Dartmouth (736 tenured and tenure track professors vs. 589 at Dartmouth) and the faculty there has more members of the prestigious national academies in its ranks.

So why does Dartmouth nonetheless cost more to run?

Despite Dartmouth’s smaller size, the College has 2,995 full-time and 333 partime non-faculty staff members on its payroll; Brown only has 2,574 fulltime and 653 parttime non-faculty employees. And if the SEIU wage scale is typical of overall employee compensation, Dartmouth’s staff is much better paid than Brown’s, and its members have more costly benefits, even though taxes and the cost of living are much lower in New Hampshire.

Joe works out that almost all of the $105,491,000 difference between the cost of operating Dartmouth and the cost of operating Brown comes from the total cost of wages and benefits. At Dartmouth that cost is $475,574,000; at Brown it is $388,859,000 — a difference of $86,715,000.

I’ll try to remember these numbers the next time I get a phone call from Dartmouth asking for a contribution.

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