Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rein in Administrators

From the Princeton Alumni Weekly
(January 11, 2017)


I loved my years at Princeton and have
contributed to Annual Giving every year
for 50 years. I will also leave a portion
of my estate to Princeton when I die.
Nonetheless, I am not blind to her warts.

I once heard a talk by C.N. Parkinson
explaining Parkinson’s laws. One was:
“In any organization, administration
expands without limit.” Where there
were a modest number of deans and
administrative personnel in 1960, there
are now multiple deans, assistant deans,
and a battalion of accountants and
administrative personnel. Each receives
a salary and benefits at considerable
annual cost.

Tuition in 1960 was about $800/
year, or about 15 percent of the median
U.S. annual income. In 2015, tuition was
about $43,000/year, or about 75 percent
of the median household income. The
compound growth rate over this interval
is 7.2 percent! Unabated, this will lead
to “a tyranny of exponential functions”
where in 2040 a college education will
cost approximately $1 million, and
in 2065 it will run $5 million! These
numbers seem absurd, but annual
college expenses over $50,000/year
would have seemed preposterous in
1960. What to do?

I believe all universities need to
limit costs to avoid pricing themselves
out of the market. How many deans,
assistant deans, and administrators
are essential to the operation of a great
university? When I look back on my
time at Princeton, I remember four
wonderful professors who helped make
my career possible. I do not remember a
single administrator.

Paul F. Jacobs *66
Saunderstown, R.I.

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