First, an illustration of the problem
One source of the problem is administrative bloat.
In 1999, the College had 2,408 non-faculty employees, including 75-80 at the Hanover Inn. Today Dartmouth has well over 3,200 employees (without the Inn’s staff). That’s a difference of approximately 900 employees — of whom, according to IP Folt, about 300 are in research. What are the remaining 600 new employees doing with their time? After all, Dartmouth was a fine school in 1999, the number of students has not changed materially since then, and the size of the faculty has increased by only about 60 members. I submit that they are not doing much of anything; they are just a manifestation of bad management, given that the number of College bureaucrats has increased in virtually every department. Here’s an excerpt from a column I wrote on the subject for The D in 2009:
In 1997, the President’s Office numbered 6.5 full-time employees; 10 years later there were 10. During that time period, the Dean of the Faculty Office went from 14 to 28 full-time employees. The Dean of the College Office went from 16 to 26; the Provost’s Office went from 6.5 to 11.5; and the combined headcount of the First-Year Office, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Residential Life went from 26.5 to 47.
Unrealistic wages contribute to the problem.
Beyond the bloat, as we have noted ad infinitum, the College’s compensation structure (wages, benefits, holidays) is totally out of line with that of the local labor market. In many cases, employees are paid twice what workers earn in similar occupations in the private sector in the Upper Valley.
The solution to the higher ed bubble in Hanover? That’s easy, as any management consultant could tell you. You trim 500 positions from the College’s bloated ranks, and cut compensation so that the College pays a generous 20% more than other Upper Valley employers — but not double. Not only would you save money, but the College would run better.
With the savings from these cuts, you could either reduce tuition to zero, or, better yet, trim it in half and use the remaining savings to fund the kind of academic programs and student pedagogical support that would make a Dartmouth education the envy of the world.
This scenario might sound too simple to work at Dartmouth or at the many schools where administrative bloat is pushing up costs. Considering the crisis in escalating college costs, it certainly seems to be worth a try.