For three decades the rising cost of attending American colleges has far outpaced inflation. As this higher education bubble continues to inflate, a university degree, which used to be a ticket into the middle class, is increasingly coming to resemble a ticket to decades of debt. And what are students, whose loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, getting in exchange for a lifetime of financial servitude? According to Michael Barone, an educational experience that’s increasingly light on hard sciences and heavy on diversity specialists:
The University of California system has been raising tuitions and cutting departments. But, reports John Leo in the invaluable Minding the Campus blog, its San Diego campus found the money to create a new post of “vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.”That’s in addition to what the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald calls its “already massive diversity apparatus.” It takes Mac Donald 103 words just to list the titles of UCSD’s diversitycrats.The money for the new vice chancellorship could have supported two of the three cancer researchers that the campus lost to Rice University in Houston, a private school that apparently takes the strange view that hard science is more important than diversity facilitators.
Crushing debt, dismal job prospects and the delay of important adult milestones such as buying a home and starting a family are the logical outgrowth of a system that sets its priorities this way. Nor is it just our students who are suffering; the economy as a whole is being dragged down by the failure to equip the next generation to compete in a workforce environment that their grandparents, and increasingly even their parents, don’t recognize anymore.No doubt there are those who disagree, but new vice chancellors for diversity and inclusion (or for anything else for that matter, vice chancellors for saving money and cutting unnecessary costs exempted) should only be created when all other costs are safely under control and no serious cutbacks are being made to core academic departments. One consequence of the academic cost squeeze now under way is that more and more people (students, parents, taxpayers, legislators) are going to start looking under the hood to see just why the engine is running so poorly and getting such bad gas mileage. As that happens, a lot of the academy’s most cherished ideas are going to come under intense political and economic threat.There isn’t any money for all the bells and whistles that administrators would like to add to their bureaucracies. They are going to have to do more with less. They won’t like it, but that won’t matter. Change is coming to higher ed, much faster than most administrators think.