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Jack Lew, John Galt, and American universities

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But the administrator-to-student ratios changed dramatically. In 1975, universities hired one administrator for every 84 students and one staffer for every 50 students. By 2005, there was an administrator for every 68 students and a staffer for every 21.

Here’s another way to look at it: Back in 1975, there were about 447,000 professors and 269,000 staffers and administrators. Four decades later, the staffers and administrators outnumbered the professors, 756,000 to 676,000.

And at the top of these pyramids, people pull down huge salaries and perks. By 2007, 12 university presidents earned more than a $1 million salary per year and 81 received more than $500,000. Less well-known are the packages showered on the presidents’ every-growing coterie of so-called “cabinet” hires.

By 2003, for example, the University of Maryland at College Park employed six vice presidents, six associate vice-presidents, five assistant vice-presidents, six assistants to the president, and six assistants to the vice president. And the vice presidents’ salaries climbed 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, when student tuition rose sharply as well.

Let’s be clear: Administrative bloat isn’t the only reason for skyrocketing college costs. Universities now provide a host of new student services, and they also have to comply with an ever-growing maze of complex government regulations. And not every administrator gets the kind of astronomical compensation that Jack Lew reportedly received.

But students and parents have the right to know where their dollars are going. Instead of focusing narrowly on Lew’s compensation package, then, we should demand that all universities – private as well as public – release the salaries of all their employees.

Administrators won’t like that, of course. But some professors won’t like it either, because they’ve cut their own extraordinary deals. Universities used to be like professional baseball, in the era of the reserve clause: You played for the team that drafted you, and you had to abide by its terms.

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