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News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
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Dartmouth Can’t Afford Solid-Platinum Benefits for Its Employees
I chose to use the adjective solid-platinum to describe Dartmouth’s employee benefits plan because I couldn’t come up with an original modifier that referred to diamonds. But that is where we are. For every dollar of salaries and wages that the College paid out in fiscal 2008, another 43Â¢ of cost was incurred in benefits expenses (up from 39Â¢ in 2005).
Put another way: the bite taken out of the budget by benefits is rising: during 2005-2008, while salaries and wages rose 23%, the cost of benefits rose even faster, by 31.7%. In contrast, the CPI was up only 10% during that time.
The College’s 43% figure is virtually the same astounding level of benefits spending that hobbles French companies, but in France corporations have no choice in the matter; the payment of charges sociales is mandated by the state. But Dartmouth has no such excuse, other than the absurd largesse of past administrations that sought to buy popular support, even at the cost of declining educational quality for students.
However, the silver lining in this dark cloud is that the College’s benefits plan can be adjusted without laying off even a single employee. Please take note, President Kim. As the Boston Globe once headlined an editorial that spawned a wonderful vignette: All Must Share the Burden. With some resolute leadership, the College’s benefits package could be pruned, co-pays increased, contributions trimmed, and deductibles hiked — and immense amounts of money saved. For example, last year UNH’s fringe benefits amounted to 32.7% of the total payment of salaries and wages. If Dartmouth had paid out the same percentage in fiscal 2008, we would have reduced our budget by close to $30 million, and thereby plugged more than half of the shortfall that President Kim said on Friday we are facing due to the drop in value of the endowment. Here’s an example of a place to start cutting:
Now please don’t get me wrong. I am sure that many people and families have enjoyed wonderful counseling sessions on the College’s dime, and they felt much better about themselves afterwards (so no impassioned letters, please); but the College cannot afford this. Not when students can’t get into the classes that they want, and the institution as a whole is bleeding red ink. Choices must be made, folks, and this could be the first among them.
How about adopting the following goal? Dartmouth College should have the very best benefits program among large, private employers in New Hampshire, but no better than the next best big company. We cannot afford to continue the wasteful indulgence that ate up almost $129 million in 2008.
Addendum: It seems that not all of the Ivies employ the same accounting conventions in this area: Columbia, Penn and Princeton do not separately break out salaries/wages and benefits in their 2008 annual reports. However, the other schools in the Ancient Eight do, and the figures give one pause when one looks at the percentage of benefits paid out relative to salaries and wages: Harvard (27.9%), Yale (27.5%), Cornell (24.9%), Brown (26.5%). As we noted above, the comparable figure for Dartmouth was 43%.
Trustee Homework Assignment: For the next Board of Trustees meeting in early November, please bring information about the level of benefits spending for the U.S.-based operations of your own company. I’ll bet that nobody in the room has a company that splashes money around on fringe benefits like our alma mater.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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