Phi Beta Cons

A Debate on Costs in Higher Ed

On. November 28, Steven Pearlstein offered “Four Tough Things Universities Should Do to Rein in Costs” in the Washington Post. The column is pretty sensible. He quotes knowledgeable people such as Carol Twigg of the National Center for Academic Transformation and Richard Vedder of Ohio University. Pearlstein, a professor at George Mason University, shows the distorted priorities in university spending.

Two days later Daniel W. Drezner of Tufts University responded with “Four Tough Things Columnists Should Do Before Writing about Universities.” He chastises Pearlstein for speaking so broadly about “universities” without differentiating among the varieties of schools and chides him for using old data and exaggerating the “administrative bloat” problem.

It’s a good exchange. I think Pearlstein has the better argument, but Drezner rightly reminds us that higher education is a complex business, and details matter. (Those of us at Phi Beta Cons knew that already.)

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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