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The Hanlon Dilution: It’s About Money

[For those of you who did not follow Dartblog over the Xmas break, here’s a post worth reading]

As I have written before, Phil Hanlon’s plan to expand the College is all about money — it’s a way for a President who has failed at fundraising to take in cash to finance his real ambitions: more researchers and prestige projects for the College.

Phil faced a similar financial pinch during his career at Michigan, and he responded in the same way. When I asked him in a meeting in the fall of 2013 about how he had cut costs in Ann Arbor in the face of the 2008-2009 recession, he responded that he hadn’t cut costs at all. He said that he had balanced the university’s books by increasing the size of the student body, thereby taking in more money.

That’s what the numbers show: in his years as Michigan’s Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs (2007 - 2010) and then as Provost (2010-2013), the school saw a 7.92% growth in undergrads (between 2009 and 2013), with the numbers increasing every year:

Michigan Growth of Undergraduates 2000-2016A.jpg

And not only did Phil change the number of students, he changed their profile, too, as the MLive paper in Ann Arbor reported on February 8, 2015:

When the fall 2014 semester started at the University of Michigan, more than half of the students at the Ann Arbor campus were from outside the state. It was the first time that had happened in at least 15 years.

Of the 43,625 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, 21,514, or 49.3 percent, are from Michigan…

U-M records show that, from 2000 through 2009, at least 56 percent of the total student population was from the state of Michigan. That figure fell to 53.9 percent in 2010. The overall percentage of Michigan residents at U-M has fallen in each of the last five years.

The move toward a higher percentage of non-resident students isn’t a trend officials are shying away from. In fact, they predicted and welcomed it with open arms — and, from a business standpoint, for good reason.

Tuition for undergraduate in-state students during their freshmen and sophomore years is $13,158. For an out-of-state undergraduate at the same class level, the cost balloons to $41,578, or more than three times the cost of what in-state students pay.
[Emphasis added]

You can do the math, but growing the size of the student body by 7.92% while decreasing the number of in-state residents from 56% to below 50% — so that far more high-paying, out-of-state students could pay well over triple the tuition of in-state students — amounts to a massive increase in revenue.

But at what cost? First off, the university grew so crowded that “administrators also had to manage a housing shortage, which was a result of both over-enrollment and the closure of West Quadrangle for renovation. To ensure incoming freshman could live in on-campus residence halls, the University provided returning students incentives to live off campus.”

Obviously Phil did not do a very good job managing the growth that he initiated. In fact, the increase in the size of the student body was done so poorly that Hanlon’s successor, Provost Martha Pollack ‘79, now President of Cornell, announced a plan to scale back enrollments less than six months after Phil left Michigan for Dartmouth:

At a Board of Regents meeting last fall, University Provost Martha Pollack expressed frustration with the University’s trend of enrolling too many students.

“We have been over-enrolling every year for the past five years and we have to stop this,” Pollack said at the time. “I’m not happy about it.”

Pollack called for a plan to curb over-enrollment…

And the university shirked on its fundamental commitment to educate students from the state of Michigan. In the year that Phil left Ann Arbor, the legislature appropriated $279.3 million to the university — a sum that might get a legislator or two upset, especially when the majority of students, after Hanlon’s changes, came from outside of the state.

Isn’t Phil now trying to do the same thing in Hanover? And what will the end result be? We can expect initial chaos. And also a permanently diluted Dartmouth. One that has lost its soul and the very attributes that make the College a special place.

So don’t believe Phil’s nonsense about extending Dartmouth’s reach, or bringing in a more diverse student body, or following trends in higher education. The plan to increase the size of the student body is all about money. With Phil, it always is.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The billionaire hedge fund manager, David Einhorn, was asked what he believed is the most important factor for his investing success during an Oxford Union event last month.

“If I had to pick one, I think it is critical thinking skill. It’s the ability to look at a situation and see it for what it is, which isn’t necessarily what is presented to you,” Einhorn said. And when something doesn’t make sense to question it, to challenge it, to look at it from a different way, to often come to the opposite conclusion.”

Apparently Phil doesn’t think that Dartmouth grads are capable of critical thinking. Otherwise he would never offer up the disingenuous reason for building the monster dorm. What is scary is that Phil actually thinks his rationalization will be believed by anyone.

Addendum: A parent writes in about a conversation with his student:

We did discuss the expansion of enrollment. All of the students are against it. She is living in a room with two roommates that used to be for two students. She feels the food at FOCO is awful and overpriced. Long lines at peak times. Very crowded always. After morning practice, she has very little time to eat and go to class, so she skips breakfast too frequently. She visits CVS often. Not a good solution due to limited selection.

She loves her friends and teachers.

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