The price of art has increased immensely over the past decades, but so has the price of training artists. Tuitions in higher education have ballooned, leaving many young graduates with a $200,000 noose of debt. The skyrocketing cost, belied by tremendous university assets, has been explained in many different ways: too many professors, too much research funding, a decrease in endowment spending, the influence of the fabled 1%. Economist Robert E. Martin explains vast tuition increases by analyzing college structures. He contends that the problem lies in a tremendous expansion of the collegiate bureaucracy, which has wrested control of spending from faculty.
On the administrative side, the ratios of executives to student and professional staff to student increased—the latter by 50 percent. In 1987, except at private research universities, where administrators outnumbered tenure-track faculty, colleges had approximately as many tenure-track faculty as full-time administrators. By 2008 there were more than twice as many administrators as tenure-track faculty at all types of institutions.
Indeed, if it were true that faculty members have too much influence, then all full-time-faculty increases would have been in tenure-track positions, and academic costs would have risen faster than overhead costs. In fact, overhead costs grew faster than academic costs, and institutions economized on the use of tenure-track faculty and spent heavily on overhead staffing.
Top image: Shelter Serra, Black Amex Card, computer routed Sintra, 4×6′. Photo: Jordan Doner.