The bubble at the University of Minnesota

The Minnesota media usually luxuriate in national attention directed to local institutions or figures. Not so with the December 28 Wall Street Journal article (behind the Journal subscription paywall) highlighting the University of Minnesota as Exhibit A for the administrative bloat fostered by the higher education bubble. The silence is, as they say, deafening.

The Washington Post’s Charles Lane picked up on the Journal article for a column of his own, reprinted here in today’s Star Tribune. Lane plucks some choice facts and figures from the Journal to lead his column:

At the University of Minnesota, the number of employees with “human resources” or “personnel” in their job titles has grown from 180 to 272 since the 2004-05 academic year. Since 2006, the university has spent $10 million on consultants for a vast new housing development that is decades from completion. It employs 139 people for marketing, promotions and communications. Some 81 administrators make $200,000 per year or more.

In the past decade, Minnesota’s administrative payroll has gone up three times as fast as the teaching payroll, and twice as fast as student enrollment.

Oh, and tuition more than doubled in that same period, to more than $13,000 per year.

These facts and figures, gleaned from a fascinating article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, are depressingly typical of American higher education, where administrative payrolls and other non-teaching costs have been growing rapidly — without any obvious commensurate benefit for students.

Lane highlights a quotable quote from current university president Eric Kaler:

Minnesota’s president told the Journal his school’s doubling of “directors” at the Office of Equity and Diversity helped make the campus “more inclusive and more welcoming to people of different backgrounds.”

Here’s a thought. Some local Twin Cities paper with a reporting staff really ought to follow up on the Journal article with reporting and analysis of its own.


Books to read from Power Line