Paul Campos writes in the New York Times about what he claims is the “real reason” for higher college tuition in the USA:

far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education.… a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration

And he singles out the California State University (CSU) system as an example:

while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase

As it happens, rising tuition in the CSU system has (together with rising tuition for the University of California1) been the subject of a study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), which finds that what Campos dismisses as “conventional wisdom” – that state universities charge higher tuition because states have cut public funding to higher education – is not only conventional, but supported by data. The PPIC study concludes,

Our examination of expenditures by the UC and CSU systems shows that the cost of providing public higher education in California has not risen dramatically. Instead, the tuition increases over the past several years have merely shifted the cost from the state to students and their families.

It may, of course, be the case that Campos has better information than PPIC. But it seems unlikely to me that he does.

(See also Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed.)


1In addition to its community colleges, the state of California has two public university systems, the California State University system and the University of California system. The principal distinction between the two is that the UC offers the PhD, in keeping with Clark Kerr’s Master Plan.