Tim Pawlenty appears to have given a lot of thought to the problem of the high cost of higher education.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, the former governor of Minnesota sets forth a number of cost-cutting recommendations, which he urges the nation’s colleges and universities to adopt posthaste.
In particular, Pawlenty challenges institutions to reduce the number of administrators on staff, induce faculty to teach more courses and mentor more students than they do now, revamp compensation programs so they are more performance-based, upgrade outdated technologies so educational content may be delivered more effectively, and eliminate superfluous programs and ineffective courses. He also wants the schools to make financial literacy a core course requirement.
All reasonable, well-intentioned suggestions that are unlikely to move the needle in a meaningful way anytime soon.
Sure, vast organizational excesses exist within higher educational institutions, as anyone who works in that environment knows. So too are they likely to exist between schools, when one considers the 12 dozen postsecondary Title IV institutions within each of these United States on average.
In my own state, there are a half dozen private, nonprofit schools teaching roughly the same number of students (5,000 to 7,000). That means there are also at least six presidents, six provosts, six chief financial and legal officers, and God knows how many deans, associate deans, assistant deans, department chairs, accounting and payroll clerks, procurement and facilities personnel, administrative assistants, and on and on and on.
Not only does this represent a ridiculously long employee roster, but the list is, for all purposes, also immutable because few employees would voluntarily surrender their positions, even if their institution were to combine operations with another’s.
Indeed, we are naïve to think that any private school would choose to do more than tread water in the hope of better days to come when each is controlled by an executive administration with too much compensation at stake and governed by boards with too much loyalty in place.