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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: salaries

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February 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How staff benefits and student services drive up college tuition

Corrected version

Higher-education watchdogs have often speculated that the rapid rise in college tuition is largely due to administrative bloat – or the increase in college administrative costs. The size of administration and high pay for college presidents and professors are often fingered as root causes.

It’s an important issue, because if costs could be cranked down or at least held steady, it would open the doors for more students to get their degrees without going into debt.

A new report by the Delta Cost Project takes a look at the nationwide increases, and finds some of these ideas hold true — but others do not.

It is true that compensation costs per employee are rising steadily, and there’s a widespread increase in the number of administrative jobs. In fact, “professional staff increased twice as fast as executive and managerial positions and account for nearly 20 to 25 percent of all campus jobs,” according to the report.

But the authors found that most of the increase was for jobs that provide non-instructional student services, like counseling, admissions, financial aid and athletics. Overall, public research universities and community colleges average 16 fewer employees per 1,000 full-time students today than they did in 2000.

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