(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
The University of Texas system has emphasized transparency in recent years. The following table comes from a UT Austin report, comparing UT finances to peer institutions.
State Appropriations plus Tuition & Fees per Full Time Equivalent Student, Fiscal Year 2006
|University of Texas at Austin||$13,560|
|University of Illinois Urbana||$16,060|
|University of Indiana Bloomington||$16,710|
|University of Michigan Ann Arbor||$23,830|
|Michigan State University||$17,370|
|University of Minnesota Twin Cities||$23,200|
|University of North Carolina Chapel Hill||$26,220|
|Ohio State University||$19,850|
|University of Washington Seattle||$18,270|
|University of Wisconsin Madison||$16,580|
Ok, so this isn’t precisely the table- something has been added. While most of these are first rate public universities, one of them is one of the nation’s most dysfunctional school districts-the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). The number for DCPS is a spending per pupil figure computed by Cato Institute scholar Andrew Coulson.
So don’t hurry off to the comment section to complain that universities have other sources of revenue-granted they do- research grants, private gifts, etc. But I think any fair minded person would have to concede however that modern American universities spend money in ways that would make a drunk sailor blush. Paragons of frugality they are not. Universities are also engaged in an activity inherently more expensive teaching K-12 skills- no school district needs to hire legions of people holding Doctorate degrees in order to be successful. The total spending per pupil are much higher for these universities, but much of that spending has next to nothing to do with student education.
Notice however that the money spent per pupil in DCPS would cover all the tuition, fees and state appropriations to send expenses for all of these institutions other than UCLA and UNC Chapel Hill, where it comes very close.
Take the least expensive option on the list. UT Austin ranked as the 15th best University in the world according to the Times of London in 2004. UT Austin employs 2,300 full time faculty members, 51% who were tenured, including Nobel Prize winners, etc. etc. UT Austin has esoteric departments with few students, and things like atom smashers and a nuclear reactor, seven on campus museums, seventeen libraries with 8 million volumes, a Gutenberg bible and many other obscenely expensive ornaments.
And yet…almost two students can attend UT Austin for spending per pupil in DCPS. I could dwell on just how bad DCPS test scores are, but that would be cruel. As the Joker burned his cash bonfire, he told stunned onlookers “It’s not about money, it’s about sending a message.”
With absurdly high spending and tragically low scores, what message does DCPS send?