RG calls on UO to control “appearance of administrative bloat” and limit tuition increases

Today’s editorial here:

… A visible effort by the UO to bring costs under tighter control, however, would influence lawmakers and donors alike. Such an effort could begin by restraining both the number and the salaries of university administrators, which have expanded in tandem over the past decade. No potential supporter of the university, public or private, is pleased by the appearance of administrative bloat. If the UO can project an image of operational efficiency, and can show itself to be focused above all on its classrooms and laboratories, arguments for increased state funding and donor support will become more compelling. …

I’m all for cutting bloat, such as the large buy-outs we’ve been giving incompetent administrators, and while it would be simple to get $10M or so out of the bloated Duck athletic empire, (cut baseball, softball, golf, tennis) the RG has it wrong on the tuition increases.

The focus on the tuition list price is simplistic and the RG editors really should know better than this. UO should be *increasing* the tuition list price, and use the money to increase the discounts that it offers to good low and middle income students. We’ve done this for the lowest income students with PathwayOregon – partly supported with generous donations from UO Trustee Connie Ballmer. Raising tuition would allow increasing the income limit for that program.

Tuition increases can also fund programs to encourage quicker graduation and decrease the dropout rate – as President Schill has already started. Both these projects have the potential to cut the cost of college graduation by far more than tuition limits will do.

A 4-year college degree is an extraordinarily good investment for students. UO’s focus should be on increasing access to those degrees and improving their value, and tuition limits are not a sensible way to do either.

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5 Responses to RG calls on UO to control “appearance of administrative bloat” and limit tuition increases

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    I can’t agree with UOM on this. The RG article was very poor — misleading at best. It talked about a budget “shortfall” for fiscal 2017 that apparently has already been covered. (Remember that CAS deficit that had to be covered?) It’s not clear what the budget “shortfall” for 2018 really amounts to. The RG owes its readers an explanation of Diane Dietz’ poorly written article. (Sorry Diane, but it’s true.)

    That said, I think the RG is basically right about the unsustainability of tuition increases. In the first place, tuition increases are being used to cover out-of-control increases in expenses, apparently. (I say apparently; it would be nice to have real budget information to judge that statement.) Raising “sticker” tuition to give “discounts” to low-income students and initiate changes that raise graduate rates will not cover increasing costs.

    Second, I’m not convinced that it’s a great idea to jack up tuition on those who can pay to subsidize (even) more those who cannot. (I also don’t know the extent to which this is really happening; I suspect not so much, because, as I said above, that extra tuition money is needed because the bills gotta be paid.)

    UO really is in a hard place. I doubt that more money is going to be forthcoming from the state. UO will have to pay its rapidly increasing PERS bills, like every other state agency. (Or even if it someone became truly independent of the state.) Health insurance is going to be rising, as almost always, especially as the bills for Obamacare and Medicare/Medicaid come due.

    The RG editorial talks about “administrative bloat.” Now I’m against that as much as most people. I see UO spending money on a lot of non-educational items. A lot of readers would not agree with me about what is wasteful, however. And I believe it is the case — the great UO Senate Budget Committee should know whether I’m right — that the Instruction component of the general budget has been holding pretty steady for a number of years. The true bloating of administration probably stopped, admittedly at a high level, back near the end of the Frohnmayer years.

    All of that said, I don’t see how UO can keep raising tuition by 5% or so each year, while incomes are rising probably at 2-3% per year. At some point the students are going to turn away, and then UO will be in a real downward spiral of increasing tuition which further exacerbates the deficit. I think they are already probably pushing the edge of out of control finances. Enrollments down from their peak. Students freaking out and protesting.

    Again, I don’t the expect the state to be of much help. That leaves the private donors. Time for them to step up to the plate.

    We don’t even have the option of trying to imitate OSU (which may already have passed UO by as the state’s most consequential university, something like what happened long ago with Ohio State and Ohio University).

    I’m not sure how much of this Schill really grasps, with his Princeton/UCLA/U. Chicago background. Perhaps I underestimate him. Time to bring home the bacon. (And if anyone keeps kosher around here, I’ll be happy with lamb chops!)

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    • Dog says:

      Largely agree, this just adds more intensity to our insane desire to never focus on improving our academic mission or programs, but rather spend 110% of our time on budget spreadsheets …

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  2. Moonman says:

    UOM says: “A 4-year college degree is an extraordinarily good investment for students.”
    How about backing that up with some recent data. Or at least offer some solid background information. It may be truer at some schools than others. How does UO stack up with equivalent publics? I’ll concede that a good education brings lifelong intangibles. But whether a UO degree is worth the investment, particularly after all the problems of recent years and depreciation of institutional reputation, seems like a valid question.

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  3. charlie says:

    So the OP believes that “a four year college degree is an extraordinarily good investment for students.” Leaving aside the increasingly unlikely ability for the average student to get a degree in four years, 43% of those holding student loans would disagree with the initial statement.

    time.com/money/money/4284940/student-loan-payments-debt-college

    Forty three percent of all college loans are not being serviced, i.e., not being paid, by way of delinquency, forbearance or outright default. That was of June of this year. A couple of years before, that number was 48%, but the FEDS created a program which gave a few cash strapped loan borrowers some form of relief. The decrease had nothing to do with an improving economy.

    Put it this way. If a bank had nearly 1/2 of its outstanding loans not being serviced, it would be shut down. What kind of idiots would make lending policies which resulted in those kind of metrics? The same thing applies to UOwe and all the other loan mills which have created this mess. Further, the student loans had little, if anything, to do with improving the academic quality of the instituion. That debt was used primarily as collateral for the bonds for the building projects taking place all over the country. Your colleagues at the UCs figured that out a few years ago…

    They Pledged Your Tuition-The Council of UC Faculty Association,
    cucfa.org/news/tuition_bonds.php

    One of the biggest problems that the UC profs found was that the uni admins were issuing bonds for building projects that weren’t financially credible and have no academic purpose. Somehow, that all sounds familiar, even here in k-12 land. Given all that, makes anyone wonder why we should continue to encourage any of our teenage charges to take on debt for such a dubious result….

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    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      hey charlie — a little off on the loan defaults. Mostly happens with students who don’t get degrees, CC students, for-profit schools. The default rate at UO is far, far lower. To lump in UO with “loan mills” is just false, whatever the considerable flaws here.

      You are also very wrong about the role of tuition money in U. finances at a place like UO.

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