Home / General / Where is all that extra tuition revenue going?

Where is all that extra tuition revenue going?


Brian Galle of Boston College is doing a survey of the budgets at several hundred US colleges and universities. His data cover the years 1999 through 2007, and are adjusted for inflation.

During this time, he finds that both gross and net tuition revenue rose by nearly 40% in real, inflation-adjusted terms. How did university administrators decide to spend this money? If you guessed “on hiring lots more underlings, and giving enormous raises to themselves,” you have just won an authentic Gordon Gee bow tie. Gale finds that University president salaries rose by 50%, and total employee compensation went up by 22%, yet full-time instructor salaries (this includes both tenure-track and non-tenure track people) barely rose at all. Indeed the latter category may well have declined if non-full time adjunct faculty had been included.


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  • ichininosan


  • ichininosan

    Brian’s research is confirming, quantitatively, the corrupt aspects of higher education that you have been shining a light on. It bears repeating that these figures are inflation-adjusted. The increase in gross tuition figure is crippling our entire society.

    • toberdog

      “Crippling our entire society” sounds like overkill but I emphatically agree. High-quality education has been central to American society since even before the Morrill Act and it’s being fatally undermined.

      • Squiggles

        Overkill, eh? Student debt represents the most prevalent form of private debt in the US, and we have at least one entire generation who – as a result of that crippling debt + an acute lack of fulfilling employment opportunities to balance their books – have basically taken “fuck it, I’m a debt slave” as a key life philosophy.

        • Nathanael

          Watch out, because given a chance to abolish all the debts outright, they’ll take it.

          In short, this is a generation who are receptive to the idea of a successful revolution.

    • Nathanael

      I feel that the missing number here is “money spent on buildings”, which seems to be eating up the donation income which could otherwise go to teaching.

  • gman

    The top tier administration needs to be paid like the oligarchs they fund raise from.

    In order to attract the offspring oligarchs a university must spare no expense for student amenities…new 5 star accommodations are pricey.

    • Jonas

      Well, if we couldn’t hire top flight administrators and pay them like the superstars they are, then universities couldn’t fundraise to keep up with rising administrator expenses. I, for one, certainly don’t see any flaws in this arrangement.

      • Marta

        You obviously aren’t making under $40,000 after seven years of full time service teaching four classes as a full-time adjunct. Increases are about $500 a year, not even enough to pay for rise in gas prices.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      the private University of Iowa Foundation pays the president’s husband (who also taught biology at the U) a salary based on the fact he co-hosts fundraising dinners at the house. I can’t see why side deals like that wouldn’t exist pretty much everywhere else

    • Pat

      You have to wonder what employee costs – executive pay looks like.

  • BoredJD

    So essentially, they have been mirroring corporate American, paying CEOs what the “market” in all its wisdom tells them to (i.e. what they can convince their buddies on the Boards to payout) and by hiring huge armies of employees who don’t actually produce anything.

    Why are these non-profit entities again?

    • Hogan

      To be fair, the effective market for CEOs consists of other CEOs.

    • ichininosan

      Corporate America hides behind the “theory of the corporation” (a/k/a maximize profit) and “market economics” to justify its otherwise indefensible back-scratching executive salaries. The Board, not some nonexistent market, sets the salaries.

      The higher education industrial complex has no such “justifications.” It is entirely naked. The professors, not some nonexistent market, sets the salaries.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Did you actually READ the post? Please note that the one bar in the “price increase” chart that is barely above zero is “average faculty pay”.

        So tell me again how the “professors” set the salaries, yet somehow, amazingly, forget to give any of that money to themselves?

        • BoredJD

          Well, the powerful professors at certain universities may have power to command higher salaries and benefits, see, the NYU scandal. And at law schools, certainly the professors are reaping large rewards.

          It’s akin to a large law firm where the large majority of “service partners” (i.e. adjunct faculty and younger tenure-tracks) are associates all but in name, while most of the rewards go to firm management and certain rainmaker partners.

        • ichininosan

          “So tell me again how the “professors” set the salaries, yet somehow, amazingly, forget to give any of that money to themselves?”

          I would like to see more granular data, though I’m not sure whether Galle has it. He indicates that his research is based on tax returns at 370 Universities. We know, anecdotally, that universities are now employing a large number of low-paid adjunct faculty. To the extent those many low-paid positions are subsumed within “Average Faculty Pay,” then there is a cohort of tenured faculty whose salaries very much exceed the rate of inflation. At the law schools at least tenured faculty are the ones who determine who gets to be dean and how much that individual earns.

          I am not a faculty, but I invite those who are to correct me if I am misstating the facts.

          • an adjunct

            I believe the article specifically says that non-full time adjunct pay (the majority of adjuncts) is not included in the faculty salaries quoted above.

            • ichininosan

              Good point. But are you confident that the number of full-time (non-tenured) instructors is insignificant. They write that: “faculty average salary appears to include full-time instructor averages, not just full-time tenure-track faculty.”

              It sounds like they are still treating the data tentatively at this point.

              • Matthew Davis

                Speaking as someone who knows quite a lot of adjunct faculty, the idea that its the professorate that is causing this is insulting.

                The fact of the matter is, many adjuncts cobble together a full-time living off of multiple adjunct jobs at different campuses. There are few, if any, who are full-time adjuncts. See, for example, the cap on the amount of time adjuncts are allowed to spend teaching, grading, and advising students because if they go over 30 hours they will have to have insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Yes, that’s right, people with PhD’s don’t have health insurance.

                I am lucky enough to have gotten a postdoc, and one of my fellow lottery winners (if not the brass ring of a TT) was excited because this meant he could buy new glasses. But remind me again how it’s these few superstar professors that are wielding all this outsize weight.

                Also, many campuses are required to make their salary information public. Check out how much the president, the athletic director, and the football coach make versus the salary of the highest paid English professor. Then remind me again how it’s the professors, not the administration.

                • Squiggles

                  Speaking as adjunct faculty at one of the larger public institutions in the US – this.

                • Nathanael

                  The full professors do well, but NOTHING like the administrators, who are basically hauling away bags of loot, CEO-style.

              • Templar

                Faculty also includes non-teaching administrator-types at many schools. By professors, I assume you mean just the teaching faculty. In the last decade, teaching faculty in the US at both public and private schools became outnumbered by the administrators who are counted as “faculty”. At the same time, the faculty’s role in school governance has been marginalized.

            • Marta

              Yup and that pay is little more than $2,000 per three credit course with no benefits! If you are an adjunct at two colleges, since one will not give you over two classes or they would have to pay you benefis, you would be making $8,000 for working full time!! Do you eat, sleep or drive with that salary?

          • anon

            dude, you ain’t even a faculty member

            • ichninosan

              and dude, you’re a genius

      • Yeah, professors totally set their own salary. That’s why we haven’t received a raise in at least 3 years and the governor refused to sign the contract his own appointees negotiated with us…

      • ChrisTS

        Of course, we faculty sit down and decide to raise the Prez’s salary by 50% but ours by only 5%. Why wouldn’t we?

        Alternative response: what are you talking about?

      • BoredJD

        It’s circular reasoning. “The market determines my value, I am paid X, therefore, my value is X, therefore I provide X value.”

      • Hogan

        You’re at least thirty years behind in how university budgeting works.

  • bill

    Nice to see the iron rule of corporate hiring also applies to universities: You need astronomical salaries to attract the best people at the top, but the people at the bottom will work for peanuts so why worry about them? Sort of gives the lie to the meme going around the right wing as justification for never increasing the minimum wage, that the lower orders don’t need more money since they’re really working for pride and giving them a decent wage will only tarnish this noble idealism.

    • Nathanael

      Hopefully the next generation, which is quite open to the idea of revolution (because how likely is it that it will make things worse, eh?) will also be open to (non-Soviet, and probably non-Marxist) communism, which seems to be the only logical option left.

  • legion

    You know, one of the big insults conservatives toss at liberals is the old canard that “as soon as people can vote themselves money, they bankrupt the nation”. When that’s really just another case of conservative projection – when conservatives run a company, they give themselves huge pay raises and screw the company. They just assume everyone else is just as venal, greedy, and money-driven as they are.

    • annon

      well lets me honest here. how many high level university executives are conservative? these are most likely liberals and in the case of Michigan universities, run by board of regents that consist of liberals.

      • Ltlftc

        That’s actually not true and you don’t have to look far beyond Mitch Daniels to see it. Pay closer attention to the constitution of (politically appointed) boards of regents (Virginia, California), who are in fact running things. Plus when it comes to corporate class, that liberal/conservative distinction is not always meaningful (Summers, Rubin),

        • Matthew Davis

          Hell, just Google Texas Public Policy Foundation and Rick Perry.

          • Fun fact: the current director of the TPPF’s “Center for Higher Education”, Thomas Lindsay, is the same guy who had his ass kicked to the curb by Chicago’s tiny Shimer College in 2010. A tradition of radical democracy can be a powerful antidote to this type of administrative grifting.

            Unfortunately, such a tradition is rather rare in contemporary higher ed — but it’s never too late to start building one.

      • Jonas

        Yes, when you make things up, it certainly sounds bad.

      • annon

        considering the tremendous bias in the professor class, i find it hard to believe that the people who hired them would be much different.


        I didn’t say that all were liberals, but I would beat that the ratio is somewhere in line with what the article describes as the bias in professors.

        Virginia and Indiana are most likely the outliers, not the norm. as far as California, look who they hired. that says all you need to know about their political persuasion.

        • Matthew Davis

          How do you explain Texas A&M in your conspiracy?

        • In general, administrators do not “hire” faculty. They only approve the budget and sign the contract. Hiring is done by the faculty. A faculty committee, generally without a single administrator/barring perhaps the chair of the department, review the CVs of applicants, widdle them down to 2-5 candidates for interview (the dreaded “job talk”) and make the decision. Said decision must be approved by the administration, but they rarely have the decision-making power itself.

          This decision is usually based primarily on three things: academic pedigree–where did you go to school and/or who was your doctoral supervisor, research productivity, and “passing dinner”, i.e., you’re not SO WEIRD that the other faculty can’t work with you.

          Administrators are not hiring faculty. Indeed, given the way things work, it is more likely that self-selection is at work. People who are more liberal seek more education and faculty jobs. (There’s some interesting adult development work that shows reciprocal effects here, liberality -> college education -> liberality, but that’s complicated).

      • You’d be surprised. Even at the UC, most of the regents are financial executives, and however liberal they might be on social issues, they’re pretty damn conservative on anything involving money.

        • Nathanael

          And by “conservative”, we mean “self-dealing”.

    • Philip Arlington

      Speaking as a non-American, it seems to me that one of your country’s greatest problems is that so many of you are unable to grasp that ethical behaviour is not an output of holding certain opinions. Morality is about what you do in the face of temptation rather than what you believe.

      It is not all the other lots’ fault that America is in a mess. Reagan started the U.S. down the road to the financialist/corporatist disaster, but Clinton cheered it on (as did Gordon Brown in the UK, and he is more left-wing than anyone who has EVER held high office in the U.S.). Likewise, corporate CEOs behave badly, but so do the limousine liberals who run the law school scam.

      Americans need to focus on two things:

      1) Confronting bad ideas themselves, rather than the people who promote them. This includes not just corporatism, financialism, economic libertarianism and so on, but also “positive” discrimination (a form of racism), diversity dogma (also a form of racism), feminism (a form of sexism), and so on.

      2) Promoting good conduct, not on defeating your ideological enemies.

      The U.S. still has huge advantages over other developed countries, including mine, but it seems to me that its most fundamental weakness is that it has almost no cultural or political mechanisms for controlling predation by vested interests. It is set up on the basis that everything will work out for most people due to perpetual high growth, which worked when it was a sparsely inhabited country with abundant underutilised resources, but it will never work again.

      • thelogos

        Concern troll is concerned.

        • Hogan

          About America. Where he totally doesn’t live.

          • thelogos

            Equating feminism and diversity with the oppressive ideas they are confronting smacks me as being not concerned with America, but ‘Murika! I could be wrong, ‘tho.

      • MAJeff

        Oh, Dagney.

      • ajay

        the limousine liberals who run the law school scam

        Phil, old boy, this is a bit of a give-away that you’re an American. It’s the vocabulary as well as the style that give it away. Here, let me help. I actually am British, and I’ve rewritten some of your post in a style that sounds authentically British. Just emulate this and you’ll fool anyone.

        What-ho! Speaking as a non-colonial, it seems to me that one of your country’s greatest problems is that so many of you are jolly well unable to grasp that ethical behaviour is not an output of holding certain opinions. Och aye. Begorrah. Look you. ‘Appen. To be sure. Morality is about what you do in the face of temptation rather than what you believe, guvnor.

        It is not all the other shower’s fault that America is in a mess. Strike a light, gorblimey. Reagan started the U.S. down the road to the financialist/corporatist disaster, me hearty, but Clinton cheered it on (as did Gordon Brown in dear old Blighty, and he is more left-wing than anyone who has EVER held high office in the States! Way aye, man! Jings! Pip pip!)

        Now I think that the Americans and Brits here would agree that that would fool anyone.

  • Ed K

    Thanks for calling attention to this. We need this kind of data, badly.

    That said, I find it endlessly frustrating that people aren’t calculating faculty pay, etc., including non-full time adjuncts, who make up, by all accounts, nearly half of the teaching workforce overall, and a vastly greater percentage of it than they did 20 years ago. Failure to take these shifts (and this whole class of people) into account means that all these analyses are distorting, in very significant ways, the real picture — and they’re doing so in a fashion that tends to minimize the seriousness of the situation of academic labor while at the same time grossly underestimating the institutional need for qualified faculty. Both of those things are doing the critical discourse about these issues no good at all.

    • Mudge

      I am not sure what “total employee compensation” means. Does it mean lots of new administrators (underlings), or, e.g., big increases in health care costs. I can fully imagine health care costs rising by 22% during those years. Compensation is decoupled from pay.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “Total employee compensation” also includes administrators below the level of President.

        That is, Deanlets, associate assistant vice Deanlets, and all the variations and permutations that are part of administrative empire-building. They’re not cheap low-level employees, either.

        • wjts

          It also includes physical plant, student health services, libraries, lab personnel ranging from animal technicians to telescope operators, custodial workers, campus mail services, a small army of clerical/secretarial workers at the departmental and university levels, the motor pool, groundskeepers and custodial workers, and the IT department. For some universities, you can throw in a Press or an affiliated journal and its staff. Or a museum with a curatoral and collections staff, exhibitions department, and its own clerical, maintenance, and security personnel. Or a resident theater company with actors, technicians, directors, and a production management staff. Ditto for any sort of dedicated on-campus performance space. If there’s a university hospital that isn’t a separate entity, you’ve got physicians, nurses, therapists of various stripes, plus another army of support staff. None of this is to say that administrative bloat isn’t a real problem at universities these days, but “total employee compensation” covers a whole lot more than Second Deputy Assistant Underdean for Strategic Dynamism.

      • Ed K

        That’s a further problem. But even before we get there (who’s getting compensated more, and how?), we have the fact that faculty salaries (or for that matter, faculty compensations) are being presented as if they’re holding steady when, as Paul points out, they’re almost certainly crashing in terms of what people are really getting for the equivalent of a full time load (let’s say 4-4 without administrative duties or significant research requirements, as your garden variety non-tenure track full time teaching prof is defined as that, while tenure-track folks get course reductions in exchange for service / research).

        I suspect that part of the limitation is that the way universities report this stuff buries ‘adjunct faculty’ in ‘other employees’ and makes it extremely hard to find comparable data, but the very fact that nobody reports it should be a huge, huge red flag and people who are seriously interested in these issues should be digging.

        As of now, the only serious attempt that I know of to get some idea of what’s going on at this level is this: http://adjunct.chronicle.com. Unfortunately, it’s become less geared toward broad comparative analysis (as it was in its original iteration) and now seems more or less limited to enabling comparison shopping. In any event, the kind of data it collected would never have sufficed for the sort of statistical analysis being carried out here. But that is ultimately my point, the fact that we don’t have such data is a problem and we should be trying a lot harder to get it.

        • Nathanael

          The AAUP occasionally tries to tease out the numbers, too (for obvious reasons), but the Chronicle is still the most useful reference.

  • PSP

    “total employee compensation went up by 22%”

    If the Buildings and Grounds Department, the food service employees, and the folks in the Registrar’s office were getting raises, that is probably a good thing. When I was in college, they got paid diddley. However, I doubt that is how it worked.

    • PSP has a point. There are all sorts of non-faculty staff attached to universities these days. We can debate the merits of this or that non-academic function that universities now provide (Should there really be a gym –? Immigration services as part of HR? etc) but this particular dataset doesn’t give us any visibility into spending on non-faculty employees. The spending in that category — as well as in the “other” since I’m assuming there’s been a run-up on other non-employee costs like facilities maintenance — needs closer examination.

      • Paul Campos

        Agree that the data need to be more granular, but from what I’ve seen myself and been told (anecdotal of course) basic services such as cleaning and maintenance are getting pared back at many places, since this is a relatively “painless” way to cut non-administrative costs (“painless” here being a term of art, meaning the people who are losing their jobs have no power).

        • Ed K

          Outsourced. It’s not just cutting, it’s shifting out of the nominally ‘non-profit’ space of the university into the for profit space of contracting. Also, outsourcing can be a source of revenue for universities but a further cost for students (i.e., student records get outsourced, and the company pays the university some amount for access to the business, but then charges students directly for their records).

          • Paul Campos

            Yikes. I’ve never properly appreciated how many opportunities the modern university creates to leverage branded synergies in a fluid dynamic revenue environment.

            • Ed K

              Examples I’ve heard of: food service and housing (old news, at least in part), bookstores (also old news, but some places still run their own rather than contract with B&N or whoever), Student Records (that’s real), and duplicating / graphic services. I’m sure there are more that I haven’t even imagined. The interesting thing is that universities are hiring fewer people in many job categories, even as these Total Employee Compensation lines are going up.

              • MAJeff

                Add security to that list.

                • Ed K


                • Ed K
                • Sooner

                  And banking. As in the schools that relegate their student’s tuition/loan-excess refunds to one type of bank card, that then charges outrageous fees to the students for accessing their money. The servicer pays the schools for this right. Servicers like “Higher One”. The avenues for revenue are endless! Such is the way for these growing, self-sustaining, politically important, community dependent, little economies. It’s in everyone’s interest! Well, I guess not everyone.

        • I would not be surprised if that’s what’s actually happened. There’s probably been an expansion of construction too, in much the same way that nominally non-profit hospitals continue to grow unbounded without necessarily having a reason to do so.

          • Nathanael

            If you’ve visted ANY college campus, yes, there’s been a binge of construction, to pyramid-building levels. Totally useless construction.

    • BigHank53

      Salaries haven’t stayed flat for the football coach, assistant defensive coach, second assistant ball polisher, etc, either.

  • Afwan

    Sir, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the final law school application volumes. Specifically, why did applications fall more than applicants?


    • Warren Terra

      I’m not Campos, but if people likely to apply become informed that (1) it’s easier than before to get into Law Schools, and/or (2) it’s not worth getting into second-tier or lower Law Schools, wouldn’t it be logical for these people to apply to fewer and better schools, restricting their submissions to better schools, especially as they feel both more confident of getting in and more determined only to go to one of these better schools? Surely this dynamic would result in fewer applications per student, which could easily cause applications to drop faster than applicants.

      • Paul Campos

        I think this is probably the explanation. A further point is that total applications were down 22% at the beginning of January year over year, but ended up down 12.3% for the entire cycle.

        The likely explanation for this is that people who apply later in the cycle are all things being equal more likely to have failed to do a cost benefit analysis. Alternatively some people who applied late probably bought into there’s never been a better time to buy rhetoric sellers use in collapsing markets.

      • Afwan

        I really don’t think this happened, but we’ll need to wait to see. Something caused a lot of people to apply to a select number of schools very late in the cycle. If these people had foresight and good statistics, they would have already applied. There were a lot of applicant drives by schools with poor (but deservedly-so) reputations. Combined with application waivers, my feeling is that many applied because the costs were nil, but they only applied to the school that reached out.

        I also assume that when the time comes to actually go into debt to pay tuition, a large portion of the late-comers will balk. This cohort never saw themselves as lawyers.

    • BoredJD

      Students perhaps are learning that it makes no sense to apply to schools ranked ten spots higher that are halfway across the country if you want to work near where you grew up (partly because it is much harder to find a job in an area where you don’t have preexisting ties). Of course, the optimal move would be to apply to the slightly higher ranked schools without intending to go, but to use an acceptance as a means to negotiate a higher tuition discount from a school in your region.

    • ichininosan

      A possible explanation is that (1) the more sophisticated applicants are better focused on getting into a “good” school, so they (2) apply to more schools to maximize opportunity, but (3) a smaller percentage of applicants are “more sophisticated” due to increased transparency, (4) leaving a higher percentage of less sophisticated applicants in the pool, (5) who apply to fewer target schools.

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  • Orpho

    The argument for a slimmer administration at colleges is obvious; I just wanted to add a little narrative of how it’s actually done, however. Take a central administration, research branch – the side that deals with getting and administering millions of dollars in federal and foundation grants, plus all the back end – the public-private partnerships, the patent pipeline, the administration of research centers. It’s basically a couple dozen accountants, secretaries, and former faculty working to bring in more of the money that keeps the labs, teaching hospitals, and (yes, eventually) classrooms open.

    To slim it down, they bring in a corporate personnel firm like De Loitte or KPMG or Callos, strip more accountants and compliance officers out, and get more people to work unpaid overtime or hold the responsibilities formerly done by 2 or 3 positions. They fill in whatever cracks they need with 1099 contractors with no benefits and no job security.

    I don’t know what admin slimming looks like where you live, but this is what it looks like where I am. It’s not a particularly humane or progressive process.

    • ajay

      You’re assuming there that the bloat in admin costs is due to an increase in admin positions, rather than an increase in senior management pay. That’s not what the chart suggests.

      • Orpho

        I’m not assuming that. I’m telling a story about how admin slimming went at a university I have worked at. They cut down the cost of administration all right!

        • Nathanael

          It’s not “admin slimming” unless the President waives his salary.

  • AcademicLurker

    Sadly, studies like this one make almost no impression.

    The usual suspects will just keep repeating “It’s the fault of the d*mned professors getting paid $200,000 for doing nothing all day! Abolish tenure and that will solve all our problems!” even louder than before.

  • Scott Lemieux

    But when our benevolent administrative overlords start giving credits for MOOCs, you can bet that every penny of savings will be passed directly to the students!

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  • oldster

    Yeah, can we finally reject the nonsense that professors are making a killing, that universities are some kind of pyramid scheme for professors, that professors are exploiting adjuncts, and so on?

    It’s ridiculous. All professors are paid chicken-feed when compared with the real exploiters, the real pyramid-scammers: the administrators and money men. And the sports coaches!

    Jesus–even a full professor is only a slightly better-dressed butler to the adjunct prof’s dishwasher. None of us are living upstairs, none of us are sitting at the big table.

    I have been teaching full-time for over thirty years, and I make a more or less living wage. Choosing the life of a professor is still, compared to the choices of my classmates in college, choosing voluntary poverty.

    It just baffles me that this ridiculous falsehood about professors getting rich off the university scam is so prevalent–and even on lefty blogs like this one!

    It ain’t so, folks–the numbers show it ain’t so.

    • annon

      “And the sports coaches! ” the sports coaches bring in millions to their school. much more than your debate team coach ever did. getting a good sports team is worth paying a coach some decent money.

      for better or worse, there is a lot of money to be made at college sports for the university, but not the players.


      The University of Texas football program in 2011-12 generated the most revenue and highest profit among all programs, according to NCAA data. The numbers, in millions:

      School Rev. Exp. Profit

      Texas $103.8 $25.9 $77.9
      Michigan $85.2 $23.6 $61.6
      Georgia $75.0 $22.7 $52.3
      Florida $74.1 $23.1 $51.1
      Alabama $82.0 $36.9 $45.1
      LSU $68.8 $24.1 $44.8
      Auburn $77.2 $33.3 $43.8
      Notre Dame $69.0 $25.8 $43.2
      Arkansas $64.2 $24.3 $39.9
      Nebraska $55.1 $18.7 $36.4

      • Matthew Davis

        Now give me the costs in wear and tear on the campus from tailgating, increased police protection, inability of students to get to needed academic services during game weekends, and the overall budget of the athletics department. Furthermore, explain to me why, if they’re bringing in so much revenue, students have to be charged fees to renovate stadiums and support the team? Surely they should be self-supporting.

        The idea that sports generate revenue on college campuses is a shell game that has rarely been fully transparent, and until I’m allowed to see the big picture I don’t buy it. Often it’s touted as “exposure,” which any intern will tell you is worth about as much as the air it takes to say it.

        • gman

          That list included only the top handful of schools. I would love to see the numbers for the hundreds of other schools that dabble in athletics.

      • ChrisTS

        Ah, yes: we bring revenue! Unfortunately the vast majority of big athletics programs do not make money. That is, most of them run in the red.

      • Also, these numbers do little to tease apart the effect of coaching. Football factory schools might be able to place a slightly above-average orangutan in the head coach’s position and do “alright” for some suitable value of alright. Other schools might struggle, even with a highly-skilled coach. This is do to self selection of applicant players to these schools. Even with a relatively weak recent history Miami is likely to have considerably higher average player talent than, say, Eastern State U.

        More complete analysis is necessary to justify the salaries of coaches (based on the above argument, at least).

  • Anna in PDX

    Paul, did you read the new Rolling Stone story by Matt Taibbi about college loans and tuition? It is so depressing I am having trouble getting through it. (I have a son who is a junior at a state college and is majoring in math so will probably not have many options beyond grad school, and I am getting increasingly anxious about this.)

    • Paul Campos

      Quick search didn’t find it. Link?

    • Karla

      When I was in college (graduated in the late 90s), math majors were very desirable to consulting firms. Is this no longer the case?

      • Anonymous

        So a bachelor’s degree was enough for those firms? This is good info. I will continue to talk to my son about possible options. Thanks.

        • Anonymous

          When I was applying to schools ten years ago, the math department sold itself by telling students that math majors could work in cryptography, and particularly for the government. Don’t know if that holds true now, but it does seem to be a growth sector in your government.

          • Nathanael

            If your son has any morals, he should not get any job with a security clearance. He’ll either end up like Snowden or end up killing himself.

            And if your son doesn’t have any morals, he should not get any job with a security clearance!! :-)

      • JBL

        It is still the case. Other common options include actuarial work and things involving computers.

        • Nathanael

          There’s honest work for math majors in a huge number of computing jobs. You *have* to learn to program as well, though.

    • Nathanael

      Your son needs to learn programming as well as math. Then get a private industry job.

      If possible he should have avoided student loans entirely — because you can learn both programming and math without paying college tuition, so it’s kind of a waste — but since he is where he is, that’s what to do.

  • DrDick

    This is the inevitable consequence of running a university like a business.

  • dybbuk

    I hope that nobody draws the inference from this post that Dr. Bob Fisher, President of Nashville’s renowned Belmont Univesity, has not earned every cent of his $862,686 annual salary.

    Because we have the noble Fisher’s word that he has created, at Belmont, an ethical wonderland based on justice and fairness and relentless self-criticism. And Dr. Fisher is not just spouting words– he has proven himself in action by helping to birth a new and desparately needed fourth tier (can we even say fifth tier?) law school, which has just received provisional ABA accredition from the ever-critical ABA.

    Said Fisher:

    “You know I think law schools and people who become attorneys and judges are so critical to our democracy. We want to be a part of that, of the noble side of the law. We want to have justice and fairness and we think that our commitment as a place. . . that is a Christian University where ethical standards are a big part of what we examine ourselves on all the time, where we strive to do the right thing, and when we don’t we call ourselves on it and say…that’s not who we want to be. We think that kind of environment for attorneys to be. . . will be a wonderful thing.”

    http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/06/belmont-law-school-scammers-triumphant.html (which links to video with Fisher’s quote)

  • RTR

    You’re letting incumbent tenured faculty off easy by reporting “average faculty pay.” Here’s the reality for tenured professors:

    1. Their average teaching load is much lower than before.
    2. Their average administrative duties is much lower due to automation and expanded admin headcount.
    3. The value of their benefits has increased.
    4. Their wages have also gone up while adjunct pay has dropped, and there is a large shift in teaching duties to adjuncts.

    So sure, “faculty” as a class have not uniformly shared in the spoils of Big Edu’s rape of America’s youth, but tenured faculty certainly have.

    • John Protevi

      This is pure fantasy land, except perhaps at some R1 schools, mostly private, and mostly in STEM plus business, plus some very few VSLACs. A linky-poo to back up your claims would be most welcome.

      You might also want to declare your standing to make these claims. I am tenured full prof in French at LSU, an R1 public land grant / state flagship school, and none of these descriptors fit me.

      1) Define “before.” Standard teaching load at R1 state flagships has been 2/2 for at least 20 years; it’s 3/3 at good regional state schools, 4/4 at other state schools and 5/5 at CCs.

      2) Admin load on faculty has soared in the last 10 years due to increasing management responsibilities toward adjuncts and TAs, as well as “assessment” and similar things.

      3) My schools contribution to retirement has dropped each year of the past 5 years, while health care premiums have gone up.

      4) We have been wage frozen for 4 years.

      • RTR

        1. A public university in the South is not typical for professor pay, since you have both declining state funding and political conservatives influencing policies on tuition and pay.

        Also, your talk of “the last four years” means you’re comparing budgets set in the peak of an economic boom to a recession. The more relevant period is on the chart, 1999-2007, which is also a peak to peak comparison.

        2. “In 1988, the average professor at major research universities taught 2.9 classes each term. By 2004, that number fell to 1.8.”


        • John Protevi

          No one could have expected an ACTA link.

          You act as if “declining state funding and political conservatives influencing policies on tuition and pay” is some sort of anomaly limited to Southern publics. I don’t think that is so, and if you want to say it is, show us your homework. That would include the need to break down your claims by private vs public, by type of school (R1 and SLAC vs teaching intensive regional public, HBCUs, religious affiliated), and by geographical region.

          You didn’t address the points about increased admin load on faculty, nor the bit about benefits. Nor have you told us who you are and what your basis for these claims are. What exactly do you know about HE and how do you know it?

          • John Protevi

            You would also need to break down your data by subject area. As I originally said, lumping arts, humanities, and social sciences in with STEM areas plus business in “faculty wages” is seriously misleading.

          • John Protevi

            You also want to correlate the decline in average teaching loads with the ability of STEM plus business folks to use some grant money to buy themselves out of teaching.

            And, you’ll need to adjust for inflation for all your claims about wage and benefits.

            In short, #ComeAtMeBro

          • DrDick

            It is a national trend and state support for higher education has declined on average from 70% in 1980 to 30% (and falling) today. It is also the case that many functions previously performed by administrators or service staff have devolved onto the faculty. That was my experience in Illinois and here in Montana, neither of which is in the South.

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  • Richard Hershberger

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. There is a market opportunity here for a bunch of professorial types of a collective bent. Buy or rent some surplus academic space. A closed Catholic high school would be just dandy. Draw straws: short straw has to be president the first year. Hire a few secretaries and janitors to keep the place running. Do not build luxury dormatories and do not have a climbing wall anywhere on campus. Charge sufficient tuition to cover expenses. The bet is that there is a market out there for student who want an education and a degree but who don’t want to have to bury themselves in debt to get them.

    • MAJeff

      Accreditation. That’s the key.

      That’s why the for-profit companies wait for non-profits with accreditation to go belly-up instead of starting their own school. Accreditation comes with the purchase.

      • Nathanael

        Accreditation is worth a warm bucket of spit, academically.

        Having watched the “re-accreditation” processes at Wells College and Cornell University, I don’t think accreditation is worth anything. I would happily go to a non-accredited college with a good reputation (if I could find one) before going to a college accredited by one of these scam operations.

        Among other things, they don’t really ask any questions about whether the college teaches anything at all.

        • Nathanael

          The accreditation scam does mean that starting a decent college requires having a *serious* backer to give the college credibility.

          I bet it could be done by poaching sufficiently many well-reputed professors, and they might go for it on the grounds that they liked really teaching rather than working in a decaying failure. But they won’t take that risk until (a) their universities collapse completely or (b) it is funded by someone with Andrew Carnegie levels of wealth.

  • (the other) Davis

    I was mildly annoyed this chart didn’t also include a line for the percent increase in total full-time faculty compensation, so I did some quick research to figure that out:
    Based on data in this report, specifically Table 1, we can calculate the percent increase in full-time faculty from ’99-’07; I came up with a smidge under 15%. Based on that graph, I’m estimating the average real faculty pay increase to be about 3%-ish (someone correct me if the actual numbers appear somewhere and I’ve overlooked them).

    Put that together — 1.03*1.15 — and you see that total expenditures on full-time faculty increased by about 18%, over a period where tuition increases total almost 40%. Comparing that number to the others in the chart, we see numerical data supporting what we already knew: funding full-time faculty is a low priority in modern-day academia.

  • BDG

    Chart’s creator here. Although many of you are interested in aspects of education policy that are not our focus, we do answer a number of the questions you raise about the data & its sources in our paper. (E.g., yes, we end at 2007 because donations are important inputs in our regression analysis and charitable giving crashed in 2008). You can read the whole thing here, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2187979 .

    • Anna in PDX


    • Nathanael

      I’m trying to figure out where the massive building-construction-and-maintenance expenses fit into the chart.

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  • guess which ones are getting laid off, now that the money has dried up?

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