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Brown Puts Us to Shame

(I’m re-running this post for the freshman class so that they can see where their tuition dollars are going)

As we wait for the fiscal 2016 numbers to come out in a couple of months, let’s do a quick by-the-numbers comparison of Brown’s and Dartmouth’s 2015 financial results:

— Brown has 42% more students (9,073) than we do (6,350) and 32% more full-time professors (all of whom are paid more than ours, except for Full Professors)

You can logically expect that Brown will have to spend much more money than Dartmouth to run its entire operation, right? More students means more dorms, office space, classrooms, dining halls, campus facilities of all types, administrators, professors, etc. And if Brown pays most members of its faculty more than we pay our people, that will ramp up the difference even more.

— Brown’s total 2015 expenses: $810,957,000; Dartmouth’s: $891,428,000:
— Brown paid out $80,471,000 less than Dartmouth

But, no. It costs Brown about $80 million less than Dartmouth to run the university each year. That makes no sense. Dartmouth has to be overspending wildly, especially given that land and the cost of living and construction in rural Hanover, New Hampshire is less than in urban Providence, Rhode Island (with its top state income tax rate of 5.99% and its 7% state sales tax; both are zero in flinty New Hampshire). And Brown has to deal with other urban concerns: for example, it has 80 sworn, armed municipal police officers on its payroll vs. our 40 private security guards, etc.

— Brown’s Salary/Wages ($322,533,000) and Benefits ($93,351,000) total: $416,484,000; Dartmouth’s Salary/Wages ($382,433,000) and Benefits: ($135,622,000) total: $518,055,000
— Brown paid out $101,571,000 less in employee compensation than Dartmouth

So that’s where that money goes. How can our payroll be over $101 million more each year than Brown’s? There’s an easy answer for that: too many people doing too little work for too much money. Recall, as I mentioned above, that Brown has 42% more students than we have; you’d expect that payroll at Brown would be higher by approximately that amount — not lower by almost 20%.

— Brown’s 2015 Endowment Draw: $142,725,000; Dartmouth’s: $212,493,000;
— Brown drew out $69,768,000 less from its endowment than Dartmouth

We are by far the richer school. Our endowment stands at $4.66 billion; Brown has only $3.07 billion. But more importantly, we have double the endowment per student that Brown has. We have it, so we spend it, though I don’t think that anyone who deals with the Dartmouth administration would argue that this spending translates into a responsive operation that caters to students’ and faculty members’ every need.

— Brown’s Sponsored Research: $151,458,000; Dartmouth’s: $182,118,000;
— Brown paid out $30,660,000 less than Dartmouth

Here is the only area where the cost of operating Dartmouth should be somewhat more expensive than Brown. We do slightly more sponsored research than Brown, which hikes up our overall cost of operations. But $30 million in a budget that runs at $891.4 million doesn’t have much impact.

— Brown’s tuition, room and board and fees in 2016/2017: $64,566; Dartmouth’s: $66,174
— Brown will cost $1,608 less than Dartmouth in the coming year

Go figure. Despite all of our wealth and cost advantage, we still charge our students more than Brown (both schools give financial aid to about 44% of students; the remainder pay full boat). You’d think that Dartmouth students would get to share in the spoils of our huge endowment. Nope.

Summary: Brown’s expenses run to $89,381/student each year; we pay out $140,382/student. We spend $51,001/year/student more than Brown. However, part of that difference lies in our extra research spending — just under $12,000/year per student). After deducting research, we still spend approximately $39,000/student/year more than Brown. That difference adds up. 

If we could reduce our spending/student to Brown’s level, we could take $247,650,000 of waste each year out of our budget, which we could then put towards more productive uses. Oh, the places we’d go if the administration ran the College with the goal of providing students with the best education possible, rather than allowing a cushy, overpaid bureaucracy to grow every year.

Addendum: A Dartmouth parent writes in:

Great. Can we poach the Brown top ten administrators and pay them each $2,000,000 per year? We would be way ahead if we did so. If a side by side comparison like this was done for all eight Ivy schools, it would be even more eye-opening. Maybe the board members or top administrators would have some explaining to do before anyone makes more donations. How’s that capital campaign coming along?

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