Burn Baby Burn!

(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
UC Berkeley $23,470
UCLA $25,210
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
DCPS $24,600

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?

4 Responses to Burn Baby Burn!

  1. Patrick says:

    To be fair, UT can only charge that much because so few people want to wear that ugly burnt orange.

  2. Patrick says:

    Matt,

    The problem out here is that UNLV and UNR want to be like UT and get all those extra goodies. They want the atom smashers, and the professors who teach 1 class and do research no one is ever going to hear about. Most of the money comes in through grants and donations but that is a lot of money to waste. Tuition shouldn’t be raised to cover those extra goodies.

    State contributions plus tuition and fees leaves UNLV and UNR with about $13,000 per student as well, but when you take the total operating budget/students UNLV spends over $24,000 per student and UNR over $30,000 per student.

  3. Patrick says:

    Also,

    Jim Rogers, our higher ed chancellor, wants to not just raise tuition and fees 25% to cover the budgetary shortfall, he wants to raise taxes on businesses, while also beg the federal government for $3 billion (an amount that doubles our biannual budgetary shortfall).

    He believes he has made all the cuts he can without sacrificing the quality of education at his schools.

  4. matthewladner says:

    Patrick-

    The old saying in Texas is that God loved burnt orange so much that he made it the color of the sunset.

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