Double, Double, Loans Are Big Trouble
One of the reasons that the cost of college tuition has been able to rise far more quickly than any other sector of the economy has been the federal government’s easy lending policies (sounds like the real estate market a few years ago, right?). Look at how fast education loans have grown over the past decade: there is over five times as much outstanding student debt today as there was in 2003 — well over a trillion dollars:
During the same time period, while Americans have learned to better manage credit card debt and auto loans, default rates on student debt have continued to climb:
A study by the Pew Research Center shows that half the families in the top quartile of earnings are now taking out loans, up from only 24% two decades ago:
Everyone — rich and poor alike — seems to be going into hock to pay for education at bloated, poorly managed institutions. At a certain point, the loan binge is going to stop: default rates will grow too large; interest rates will rise; or the feds will decide that they can’t keep lending ever increasing amounts of money. The train wreck that occurs at that moment will be ugly.
Addendum: The present state of affairs reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: Two mountain climbers are high up on the face of an immense cliff. The first one slips, falls, and plummets downwards. The second one waits, and then shouts, “Are you ok?” And the first one answers, “I’m fine, but I’m still falling.”
Addendum: Research by Assistant Professor of Sociology Jason Houle, indicates that home buying by university graduates does not seem to be impeded by education loans, but one has to wonder if that observation will be true in the coming decade, following the recent, five-fold, ramping up of student debt loads.
Addendum: A reader notes:
You need to pull the for-profit colleges from your student debt analysis — unless you believe most of them are anything except rip offs — and Wall Street creations. They represent 25% of loans, 10-13% of students and 47% of all defaults, with explosive enrollment increases. See: http://forprofitu.org/fact-sheet/
Posted on October 24, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Poor, Poor Carol
“The fake classes thrived for so long because it was hard for people to fathom that they could even exist.” Carol Folt, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor.
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yoggi Berra, Professor of Philosophy.
Now I get it. While more than 3,000 UNC students took “paper classes” that never met and required only one term-end paper, which was cursorily awarded an A or B grade by an administrator (as needed for GPA purposes) in order that, for the most part, money sport athletes could maintain their eligibility, Carol believes that nobody realized what was happening.
An NCAA invesrtigation, re-opened this past June, is still ongoing.
In light of Jim Kim’s current problems, people must be wondering just what kind of management farm team Dartmouth is running.
Addendum: Former federal prosecutor and FBI counsel Kenneth Wainstein’s full report is here, and the Chronicle of Higher Education has devoted most of today’s issue to the last twenty years’ academic corruption at UNC. The story was reported on by the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, ESPN, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, the Raleigh News & Observer, and pretty much everyone else.
How sad that a school gets such a drubbing in the press.
Addendum: Lest anyone harbor any doubts about the egregiousness of the fraud perpetrated by UNC, the below note by the estimable Raleigh’s News & Observer details how grades were awarded
Crowder admitted she did not read the papers beyond the openings and conclusions. Students quickly learned they could get away with submitting papers that had “fluff” in the middle so long as the openings and conclusions were original. The investigation found that of 150 papers written by students, well over half contained plagiarized passages that accounted for at least 25 percent of each paper’s content.
Wainstein’s investigation also found two other methods for placing students - predominantly athletes - into paper classes. At least five classes actually met, but Crowder and Nyang’oro allowed some students to take the class as a paper class. In a “handful” of other cases, Crowder added student athletes, who would turn in a paper to her, to grade rolls without a professor’s knowledge.
Addendum: The fraudulent events under discussion occurred prior to Folt’s arrival at Carolina, but we can see that her response is typical of methods used at Dartmouth:
After the meeting, Chancellor Carol Folt will spend much of the day reaching out to the university community…
Aiding her is a high-powered public relations firm, Edelman, a Washington, D.C., group that has at least 14 people working to getting out the university’s message.
Spokesman Joel Curran said the firm began helping the university improve its communications in May. He couldn’t immediately say how much they are being paid.
The College employed the Edelman firm during the various petition Trustee races a few years ago.
Posted on October 23, 2014 8:20 AM. Permalink
No HPo APC’s
The Hanover Police has not purchased armored personnel carriers, nor anything else for that matter, from the Department of Defense’s surplus weapons disposal program. However the department has declined to reveal whether it is in possession of any heavy weapons:
According to its internal capital expenditures budget, the department does require its officers when on patrol to wear soft body armor, which it replaces every five years, and every decade the Town replaces the semi-automatic pistols that officers carry.
Addendum: Dartmouth Safety & Security is not a sworn police force; it is akin to a private security service. As such, its officers have no power of arrest beyond that of ordinary citizens, and they may not carry weapons.
Posted on October 23, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Kim Crashing and Burning
The other day we commented on the now-famous yellow flyers that adorn the halls of the World Bank. Staffers there, for some mysterious reason, don’t think that Jim Kim is the Messiah. Now Business Insider notes that more yellow sheets have appeared, and the BI piece add some interesting quotes from WB staffers:
The Bank’s current president is increasingly unpopular at the institution, with many staff deeply dissatisfied with his tenure so far.
“There’s a culture of fear with Kim because the perception is that you get fired if you disagree with him,” one World Bank staff member told Business Insider. “I think the sense is that he wasn’t qualified for the job, a bit superficial, narcissistic, and promises a lot but delivers little on implementation.”
Staff have been incensed at President Kim’s reform process, which they claim has been needlessly opaque, unfocused, and lacking in substance. They say President Kim has fired several well-respected managers, curtailed employee benefits, and talks of new budget cuts, all while wasting money on external consultants and bonuses for senior staff…
One former staff member told Business Insider that while Kim initially raised expectations over much needed reform to red tape and aging technology, he has failed to follow through in any substantive way.
“The entire reform effort by President Kim should be taught in business schools as a case study in how to poorly manage institutional reform,” the former employee said. “It has resulted in complete chaos and created a culture of fear, uncertainty, and distrust.”
Is Jim Kim “superficial, narcissistic, and promises a lot but delivers little on implementation”?
Yes. Absolutely. We saw those characteristics (and a few more unsavory ones) in Hanover from 2009 to 2012.
Posted on October 22, 2014 6:18 PM. Permalink
The Cost of Ivy League Living
The other day in penning thoughts on how to determine fair wages — but not much more than fair — for the Dartmouth staff (so that we can fund education at the College), we looked at the MIT Living Wage Calculator (LWC). This method determines a fair basic wage for low-earners in various locales. As MIT writes: “The living wage varies based on the cost of living and taxes where families live.”
Though we have already looked a the cost of living in the eight Ivy League locations using data from the The Council for Community and Economic Research, the information provided by the LWC seems more precise from the point of view of the College’s thousands of relatively low-skilled employees. The results of this analysis support Dartblog’s long-held contention that Grafton County is a very reasonable place in which to do business. Here are the LWC’s recommendations for a single-person’s Living Wage for all the counties in which Ivy League schools are located:
Note: I used the county figures, rather than town/city figures on the assumption that most employees would commute to their jobs at institutions of higher learning; they would not live in the towns where they work. Had I used the town figure, the living wage would have been higher by only $.01/hour in Hanover, and the same or even higher in some of the other Ivy towns.
Look at the relative cost of living in percentage terms:
As always, let’s recall that the College has the second most expensive cost of education in the Ivy League, even though we have the fourth highest endowment per student (after HYP), and we work in a relatively inexpensive locale. If we weren’t squandering hundreds of millions of dollars each year on a bloated, overpaid staff, we could both improve the quality of a Dartmouth education and cut tuition to the bone.
Posted on October 22, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Investigating the Investigator
Under the College’s new sexual assault policy, a single outside person is charged with being investigator, judge and jury when an accusation is made. In whom have we invested so much power, the unfettered authority to have a student expelled from Dartmouth based on the flimsy “preponderance of the evidence” standard?
In a July 15 NPR interview (at 10:30), Presdient Hanlon said that the College would be hiring an experienced investigator, someone who had been “a sex-crimes investigator in a major city or something like that.”
I tried to find out the name and background of the College’s hire(s) for this position from Leigh Remy (photo above), who was appointed last year as the new director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs, but she declined in a somewhat stiff manner to share any such information.
The term investigator is somewhat mild in this context; I’d prefer sexual assault czar or inquisitor.
In any event, given the College’s non-cooperation, perhaps someone who has been through the new process can share with me the name(s) of the person(s) who have such unlimited power over the lives of students. Drop me an off-the-record e-mail.
Addendum: Let’s hope that it ain’t Kate Burke.
Addendum: The College’s choice to use a single person to investigate and adjudicate accusations of sexual assault is of greater moment given the recent criticism of such a structure by leading professors at Harvard Law.
Addendum: A regular reader does some research:
After reading your post today, I was trying to learn Leigh Remy’s background. In searching, I found the following “D” article:
I light of the response which you received, I thought the following statements in the article were interesting:
“A perceived lack of transparency from judicial affairs and the failure of the Committee on Standards to release a community report in the past three years has been a source of student concern.
To address these issues, judicial affairs will post reports from the past two years on its website. Aditionally [sic], Remy has been asked to work on increasing the office’s transparency, Ameer said.”
“Remy also said her goal is to increase transparency in judicial affairs.”
How’s she doing in achieving that goal?
Posted on October 21, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Is Dartmouth Destroying Itself?
What qualities have always made Dartmouth special? We can talk about outputs, as an economist might: alumni loyalty; widespread love for the College among students, staff and faculty; bonds between friends that last for life; mutual support among acquaintances and strangers alike for people who have spent time in Hanover. But a discussion of outputs gets us only so far: description is not analysis; this information doesn’t explain how such a state of affairs came to be.
We can also look at inputs: what is it about Dartmouth and Hanover that lead us to the fierce affection that marks the College? Of course, we can only speculate. The organic development of a society is infinitely complex; understanding one is difficult and we make changes at our peril. That said, in looking at the development of human relationships, and the web of friendships and love that members of the Dartmouth community consistently develop, we can see some special sides of the College.
The isolation of intellectual Dartmouth in flinty New Hampshire causes people to look inward to the institution, something that is not always a good thing — provincialism is necessarily limiting — but living on an island campus can cause people to focus on their own world with a greater intensity than they might otherwise do in a big city school. Needless to say, students don’t define themselves by the entire institution; they can’t be close friends with 4,000 other undergrads, or even the 1,000 members of their own class. By necessity they limit their circle of relations.
So how are friends made at Dartmouth? I’ve argued endlessly that for many years dorms were a locus of fruitful social interactions. One tended to make friends with the people who term after term lived across the hall from you, who played on the same dorm intramural teams as you, or who you saw on the stairs over and over again. That successful option ended when the College terminated dorm continuity in the mid-1980’s.
In addition, students make friendships in their extra curricular activities, whether it be The D, or the symphony, a capella groups, theater or endless clubs and other activities, but those groups don’t have residential homes, so if relationships are to persist, friendships needed a place to exist outside of Robinson Hall or rehearsal and meeting rooms. The same proposition is true of sports teams; where can teammates whose bonds were created in training and competition go to just be together, to share the happiness of unforced companionship?
Self-evidently, especially after the demise of the dormitories as functioning communities, Dartmouth’s fraternities became the center of most students’ social lives. Fraternities and sororities have never been more popular at Dartmouth than today, and I think that it is a fair bet that if the administration had not impeded the creation of more sororities over the past decade, even more students would be Greeks today.
The popularity of Greek houses makes sense. The houses have never been based on social class or geographic origin or religion or race (with only one exception). They seem to be organized by characteristics like teams sports, or shared interests, or the perceived personal qualities of members. Most importantly — a characteristic possibly unique to Dartmouth — the houses and their events are open to everyone on campus.
Yet last week, even as 67.4% of upperclassmen are members of Greek houses — and one must respectfully assume that they joined their fraternities and sororities for rational reasons — The D and others called for the abolition of the Greek system. In advocating for the end of the world as we know it, no proposals have been put forward for structures that might replace a system that students endlessly vote to support with their time and energy. Sure Phil and the gang talk about a housing plan that mimics Harvard: freshman dorms and then a house system. But will that setup work when so many students head off during sophomore year on one of Dartmouth’s foreign programs? In such a system, the residential bonds of freshman year are broken at the end of first year, and it is hard to imagine anything valid being rebuilt in the multi-building clusters. Besides, at Harvard, the house system doesn’t get the job done, as evidenced by the tepid support of Harvard alumni for their school in contrast to Dartmouth alums, not to mention the exclusive, elitist final clubs that fill the social void in Cambridge.
Most of my close friends at the College and I were GDI’s — we had our close-knit dorms to sustain us — but I would counsel that the College take care in thinking about ending the Greek system. Doing so tampers with a core element of the student experience at the institution, and the move could have myriad unexpected consequences. As the College slides in the esteem of potential applicants, the rankings, and its own students, we should make sure that efforts to improve Dartmouth don’t destroy the features that have made it great over the centuries. We could end up as the bottom-of the-bottom-tier Ivy for students who didn’t get into their first-choice school — a place with nothing distinctive about it save for a beautiful campus. We might be heading there already.
Addendum: Several readers have advanced the argument that abolishing the Greek system is analogous to the College’s move to co-education a little more than forty years ago. Not a valid comparison to my mind. When Dartmouth went co-ed, that change had been made with success by most other institutions of higher learning. And while there was great resistance in the College community, the opinions of negatively inclined alumni and students did not encompass the whole spectrum of interested parties — such as women. Today the rationale for abolishing the Greeks is that doing so will diminish any number of social pathologies from hazing to sexual assault and binge drinking. Yet evidence is never advanced that schools without frats, or schools that abolished their frats, do not suffer from these ills. Why not? Because such schools are afflicted with them every bit as much as Dartmouth.
Addendum: Taylor Cathcart ‘15 has written a fine column for The D in defense of the Greek system.
Posted on October 20, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Ebola Prevention on the Ground
Further to yesterday’s post about the Spanish Flu pandemic, we saw the below health warning last week at the Kosi Bay border crossing between Mozambique and South Africa. The outbreak of the disease is centered in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, on the other side of the African continent, some 5,000 miles away.
Note the admonition at the document’s end that “Prevention is Better Than Cure” — immediately after the bullet point stating that there is no treatment for the disease.
Posted on October 19, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Dartmouth in Time of Plague
As Ebola threatens the world, it is worth recalling America’s last great epidemic of an easily spread disease: the 1918 avian-derived Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans. Estimates of the total number of deaths around the world now range between 50,000,000-100,000,000.
A military installation near Boston, Camp Devens, was hit especially hard, as a doctor there observed:
“These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of la grippe or influenza,” wrote Dr. Roy Grist, a Camp Devens physician, to a friend, “and when brought to the hospital they very rapidly develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen. Two hours after admission they have the mahogany spots over the cheekbones, and a few hours later you can begin to see cyanosis extending from their ears and spreading all over the face, until it is hard to distinguish the colored men from the white… . It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes… . It is horrible. One can stand it to see one, two, or 20 men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies… . We have been averaging 100 deaths per day… . It takes special trains to carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up something fierce.”
At the College, the death toll was limited to five students (see four above), one faculty member (30-year-old Government Professor Eldon Evans), and ten soldiers from the local army detachment. However so many people were stricken — 325 in all, at a time when there were about 400 men in each class — that Alumni Gym was converted into a sick ward, and College Hall (now Collis) became a convalescent center. Classes were cancelled from October 1-14, and Dartmouth Night was postponed. To avoid the contagion that came from close contact between people, students were kept out of doors for nine hours per day.
October 1918 was the deadliest month in American history, with 195,000 Americans dying, out of a total population of 103,208,000. (1918 was the only year in the 20th century when the national population fell.)
The virus ended its ravages almost as quickly as it began. Experts still debate as to whether treatments so improved that people recovered rather than dying, or whether the disease mutated quickly to a less lethal strain.
Addendum: Laura Stephenson Carter wrote a full report on the Spanish flu’s impact in Hanover for the Dartmouth Medicine magazine in 2006.
Addendum: A reader writes in:
In Marblehead one percent of the population (70 people) died. The virus hit in waves, down one month, up the next - evidence of the mutation.
Hardest hit state was Alaska……it hit remote areas worst - no immunity. And it also hit young people more than the old and usually vulnerable lot.
10X deaths in the USA as in the Great War.
Posted on October 18, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
The Ivies Must Do Something Right
The Wall Street Journal article describing Harvard’s largest ever donation — $350 million for the School of Public Health from the family of Gerald Chan, a Harvard-educated investor — contained an interesting nugget of information:
A review of 208 private universities rated by Moody’s MCO 0.00% Investors Service over 10 years shows a distinct tilt toward the haves. Schools with more than $1 billion in total cash and investments received 67% of total gift dollars in 2013, up from 62% in 2003. Meanwhile, universities with less than $100 million in cash and investments received a declining share—less than 3% of total gift dollars…
A survey of more than 800 public and private schools by the National Association of College and University Business Officers between 2010 and 2013 shows a similar trend. Schools with endowments of more than $1 billion saw their average gifts rise 41%, while those to schools with endowments of under $25 million rose 33%…
Dominating the list of recipients of single donations of nine figures in the last three years are familiar names: $350 million to Cornell; $350 million to Johns Hopkins; $250 million to Yale; $225 million to the University of Pennsylvania; $150 million to Harvard and $100 million each to Dartmouth and Georgetown.
The rising fortunes of the wealthy universities are due to several factors, including the growing use of large-scale data analytics, which give college fundraisers a clearer picture of not only who has the capacity to give but who has the desire. That information makes large capital campaigns increasingly efficient and boosts the advantages of wealthier schools that produce wealthier alumni. [Emphasis added]
I disagree with the use of the term “wealthy” in the last sentence quoted above. A better phrasing would be as follows: “the best schools attract the smartest students, and by giving them a fine education inside and outside of the classroom, they are the most likely to achieve great success in the world.”
There are 83 schools with endowments of $1 billion, and 597 schools with endowments over $50 million.
Posted on October 17, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
MBA: Follow the Money
Poets & Quants and Payscale have looked at the twenty-year earning history of MBA-holders from the major schools. Though Tuck finishes eighth in the ranking, take note that its graduates earn the second-highest average starting salary today:
A note on methodology:
The numbers are conservative. They do not include stock-based compensation of any kind, the cash value of retirements benefits, or other non-cash benefits, such as health care. The estimates are for base salary, cash bonuses and profit sharing in today’s dollars over a 20-year period from from 1994 to 2014. They are not a projection of future earnings. But the estimates show that the MBA degree-despite all the second-guessing over its value since the Great Recession-is one of the surest paths to a lucrative career.
Posted on October 17, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink
The Real Cost of Research
In response to Monday’s post, we’ve received a number of e-mails defending research, and even citing research grants as a net revenue producers for colleges and universities:
For example, most research on campus is done with federal grants, and these come with tight budgets that you cannot exceed. So this notion of the College coughing up an extra 10-20% is farfetched to say the least. In reality the College makes a lot of money from these grants - 62% overhead to be exact, and even higher in the med school.
Regrettably, the notion that grants financially support other parts of an institution of higher learning is just plain wrong. In an FAQ paper prepared by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in October, 2013, the figure of 20% was advanced as the share of research paid for by universities themselves. The study notes that many types of grants (monies from the Gates Foundation and other private foundations being an example) come with no contribution to overheads, and that even the overhead allocation from federal grants does not cover the full cost of research. This assertion has been confirmed to me by senior educational administrators.
Thus, when Jim Wright said that “Dartmouth is a research university in all but name,” what he was really saying is that he had decided to re-direct funding away from the undergraduate program towards graduate students, their buildings, laboratories and stipends. Methinks that Phil Hanlon and Carolyn Dever are saying the same thing when they announce a significant new structure to support graduate education.
Posted on October 16, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
What The World Needs Now is Another Grad Student
The only thing that Dartmouth needs less now than more grad students is a law school. Just how many unemployed people do we want to contribute to the labor market?
Using data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates, Slate’s Jordan Weissmann adduces the odds of a newly minted Ph. D. getting a job — any job — after nine or more years of post-secondary education. Not to put too fine a point on Weissmann’s numbers, his piece is entitled, “The Unending Horror of the Humanities Job Market, in One Chart.”
Weissman contributes an introductory comment:
Then again, job is a tricky word here. When the NSF asks students whether they have a definite commitment from an employer, it doesn’t differentiate between short-term or part-time jobs and stable, permanent work. In other words, it tosses together adjuncts and teaching fellows along with graduates who end up in the tenure track—meaning the real market might be even a bit worse than this graph lets on.
Note that a postdoc position, the most likely job category for doctorate-holders, pays between $40,000-55,000/year, a figure that is approximately 15%-55% more than an uneducated cook helper earns at Dartmouth. The below chart comes from an article in The Atlantic that has another happy title: “The Ph.D Bust: America’s Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts.”
The Atlantic piece also notes the extraordinary crash in the academic job market over the last forty years. It seems hard to believe that in 1973, 55% of Ph.D. holders went straight to tenure-track jobs; today only 15% do so.
Given the decades-long glut in the market for doctoral degree holders, just why is it that Dartmouth wants to invest in its Arts & Sciences graduate programs?
Addendum: In the early 1980’s, 40% of my class at the Yale Law School had earned doctoral degrees. Even then they had turned their back on the field that they loved.
Posted on October 16, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink
World Bankers Get Angry
When highly educated World Bankers start distributing leaflets calling for brief work stoppages, you know that Jim Kim is under pressure. Our former President is now held in contempt by many people in Washington (and Hanover). Is he on the way out?
The Class of 2011 Orator, Dartblog’s Kathleen Mayer ‘11, wrote a tough piece about Kim on March 27, 2012 that seems to be making the rounds of World Bank staffers.
Posted on October 15, 2014 9:36 PM. Permalink
Close Enough to Semper Fi
Veterans Day is November 11 and the Marines were founded on November 10.
Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.
Posted on October 15, 2014 8:00 PM. Permalink
Harvard Law Faculty Denounce Policy
In an open letter in the Boston Globe, twenty-eight members of the Harvard Law faculty have denounced Harvard’s new sexual assault policy — a policy similar in most respects to the rules Dartmouth recently put into place. Herewith the gravamen of their concerns:
This space’s own commentary parallels the Harvard Law prof’s views.
Addendum: In a related Globe article, civil libertarian and renowned litigator Alan Dershowitz said of Harvard’s policy, “This is an issue of political correctness run amok.”
Posted on October 15, 2014 4:00 PM. Permalink
Tie Goes to Kim For Now
I am sure that he is gassing on about things of which he knows little or nothing, but at least he is doing so in a Dartmouth tie. The other day the NYT published this picture of Jim Kim at the IMF’s recent annual meeting:
To cite alumni of recent prominence, did Hank Paulson ‘68 and Tim Geithner ‘83 wear Dartmouth ties when working as Secretary of the Treasury? Only on rare very occasions according to Google Images (Paulson, Geithner).
However the time for levity is over for Jim Kim. The Times ran a lengthy profile piece on him this week that mixes a great deal of unverifiable puffery about Kim with pointedly critical comments from insiders at the Bank. Our former President really knows how to work the media — perhaps his only real skill.
However in Washington the World Bank staff is close to open revolt. Kim is holding another town meeting today to try and calm anger at the mess that is the result of his consultant-driven re-organization of the institution. More than a few people at the World Bank have come to recognize that in regards to Jim Kim, there is no there there. He was purportedly booed at last week’s town meeting; who know where things will go today?
The Dartmouth faculty did not have the nerve to bring a no-confidence vote to the floor of a faculty meeting, even though most professors are protected by tenure. Will World Bank staffers find the courage to openly call for Kim’s resignation, even though many could be sent home to countries where the quality of living doesn’t measure up to their lives in Washington?
Posted on October 15, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Grad Programs? Nope. Push a Winner
The old adage states that it is easier to row with the current than against it. Should the College put resources towards reinvigorating undergraduate education (#11-but-falling) or should we invest in our various graduate programs? Let’s look at how they stand vs. the other Ivies according to U.S. News:
An ugly situation. Other than Tuck and the primary care section of the Med School, nothing that Datmouth does outside of undergraduate education is anything other than worst-in-show in the Ivies (okay, okay, Earth Sciences is second-to-worst). Is there any reason to think that an investment of money, time and effort will change that situation.
If you ask a Bain consultant which areas of an enterprise merit investment, the answer that you would get is simple: spend resources where you have a strong chance of real return on your efforts. Trying to drive our small, mediocre graduate programs to the top of their respective fields is a poor bet. Why do we think that we might succeed in the competitive world of higher education? Do we have a group of extraordinarily faculty talents who inspire confidence, as John Kemeny did when he was given carte blanche by John Sloan Dickey to build the College’s Math department in the 1950’s? If such professors are there, Phil and Provost Dever should point them out. I don’t see them.
Sharp-eyed readers will wonder why the College’s much-praised Economics department does not appear on the above list. That’s easy. Econ has no graduate program, and for a good reason, about which we have already written:
The highly regarded Economics department is already there to show the College how it can be done. Econ has no need for grad students. The question has been discussed over the years in Silsby, but the faculty’s conclusion seems to be that it would take twenty years of hard work to develop a first class graduate program. Why do so? The effort makes no sense when the same energy applied to the education of today’s undergrads gets them admitted into the best economics graduate programs and B-schools in the country.
Posted on October 14, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Comments on Grad Students
A close observer of the College writes in to comment on Phil’s plan to develop a graduate student center. Lots of food for thought here:
Expanding the A&S graduate program — by number of students — and building the facilities necessary for faculty research in the natural sciences and medicine has been where all of the presidents since Freedman have been diverting the College’s resources, as evidenced in its rising debt levels and increasing endowment payout percentages over this period.
The relative disinvestment in the undergraduate program is striking; for example, one would expect that all of those new A&S graduate students would have instructional jobs supporting the undergraduate program, but the number of undergraduates has barely budged (up 5%) while the number of graduate students is up by almost the same number of bodies and by roughly half again in percentage terms (up 50% since 2000).
In all of this, it is important to remember that A&S graduate students typically get a stipend (salary), health insurance, and free tuition, so they probably cost the College about $40,000 each on an annual basis (admittedly, a guess). At the same time, the College’s tenured faculty aren’t teaching the courses that these graduate students are teaching.
And the research that these graduate students are helping the faculty to do actually costs the College real money (a rough rule of thumb is that a $1.0 million NIH grant costs about $1.1 million to $1.2 million to run, so you lose 10% to 20% on every grant you receive).
These efforts go a long way towards explaining why the College has become more heavily indebted and chronically cash short over the last 20 years. Freedman, Wright, Kim and Folt all apparently chose not to tell the alumni about — or get their support for — where the money and investment was going, effectively quietly playing a game of *…you bet your College….* in an effort to transform Dartmouth into a Harvard on the Connecticut.
I have no idea where the Trustees were in all of this. Why the faculty seem to think that they need a dedicated graduate school facility is beyond me.
Note especially the observation that research grants do not cover the cost of the research that is done. The College’s 2013 financial accounts list “Sponsored Research Grants and Contracts in the amount of $181,517,000. If the actual cost of this work is 10%-20% beyond this figure, then the rest of the College is kicking in between $18 million and $36 million each year. Is this the best use of our money?
Addendum: An alumnus who was both an undergrad and a grad student writes in:
Having been both an undergrad, as well as an A&S graduate student at Dartmouth I think I have some insight regarding this matter. I don’t agree with increasing the size of the College’s graduate programs, and I agree that a loss of focus on undergraduates has clearly, and detrimentally, occurred. However, there is a need for a separate space for A&S graduate students. There is also a definite need for *some* A&S graduate students, as there are certain departments, especially in the sciences, where graduate students are necessary to support research (that research also often incorporates undergraduates).
The fact of the matter is that being an A&S graduate student at Dartmouth today is depressing. While the professional schools have their own spaces and cultures, A&S graduate students feel like second class citizens. As an undergraduate, I actively resented graduate students on campus using my resources while not being immersed in my culture. I then got to feel that resentment first hand as a graduate student where one is forced to blend-in to a place that offers few socially mature outlets (at least on campus).
Individual A&S graduate programs are too small to actively maintain their own vibrant spaces or social scenes. There needs to be a place on campus where a Biology PhD student will regularly and actively run into a Computer Science masters student. If we’re going to have A&S graduate students at all (and we do need to) then let’s offer them the dignity of a place to call their own, just as the professional schools enjoy.
As an aside, the “close observer” who wrote in about the cost of graduate students doesn’t take into account that some masters programs are cash cows (MALS for example (and perhaps tragically/notoriously)). I’d like to see some charts and real figures of the actual costs (including revenue from graduate student research grants). I suspect his hyperbole is a bit overblown.
Posted on October 13, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink
No Bikes Are A-Vélib-le
We are big fans of Paris’ Vélib public bike program. You buy a subscription, go to a stand (there is supposedly one within 300 yards of any point in the city), swipe your card to retrieve a bike, and then pedal away. A smartphone app lets you locate a stand and find out how many bikes are in it, and how many free spaces are left for you can drop your bike.
The system as it is conceived is wonderful, but it has two major problems: the bikes take a terrible beating; it is not infrequent that you arrive at a stand and half the bikes have flat tires, detached chains, bent pedals, worn-out brakes, and on and on. The other difficulty can be finding a stand with any bikes at all. Some areas of town have a constant bike deficit — like our area of the 16th — and others have such a surplus that it is hard to find an open space at which to drop off a bike. Hence the hard-working souls, like the fellow in the picture below, who use purpose-build bike carriers to bring Vélibs from surplus areas to deficit zones.
Over the years Dartmouth has experimented with free bike programs — though not ones that involve unlocking and locking bicycles that are associated with individual users’ ID cards. In short order most of the bikes have ended up in the river or the forest. I am not sure that a Vélib program would work at the College, unless it used thousands of bikes. Too many kids go in one direction at a time for the system to provide reliable transportation. And then there is the little matter that snow lies on the ground for four months or so each year.
Posted on October 12, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
A Great Football Victory
One hell of a football game. Look at how the team fought back from deficits all afternoon:
Harvard and Princeton are still to come, but it is nice to feel hopeful in the middle of October. We have a team with a lot of heart — and a talented QB!
Addendum: Here’s the College’s press release, and the Valley News’ report, which noted that Dartmouth kickoff man Riley Lyons ‘15 made three tackles in the game and possibly injured his shoulder. And in a departure from recent sorry tradition, even The D had a story out about the game within hours of its conclusion. Do I sense budding enthusiasm in Hanover?
Posted on October 11, 2014 4:16 PM. Permalink
1984-2014: Not Very Different
Let’s compare this cut and paste excerpt from Lisa Birnbaum’s 1984 College Book with the reality of Dartmouth today:
● Tuition and room and board added up to $13,637 in the 1984-1985 academic year. In 2014 dollars that’s only $31,218 — just over half today’s cost of $61,947.
● SAT scores of 600/600 are a little hard to compare; the College Board inflated the scores a decade or two ago.
● 4,500 undergrads is pretty much where we are today, though I expect that the number of support staffers serving them was well below 2,000 (that figure grew to 2,408 in 1999, and it’s 3,443 today).
● Animal House (1978) brought no additional notoriety to the College, except perhaps among the unwashed. Dartmouth’s reputation for wildness had been established two hundred years before the movie came out.
● “Throwing up on each other”? In 1984? And I thought that Andrew Lohse made all that up in 2012?
● Nice to see a mention for beer pong, though it seems that there are relatively few cups on the table — only one? Really? I recall at least three.
● “Beer is life itself”? I haven’t heard that quote in a while. Do students still refer to the Bible? And no mention of doing shots of cheap vodka?. The only equivalent phrase today is that the administration’s primary concern is “the life of the staff.”
● “Work pretty seriously all week; party pretty seriously all weekend.” I wonder if the definitions of the words “week” and “weekend” were the same then as they are today. In 2014, the weekend begins on Wednesday after classes end. Methinks that inflation has reared its ugly head once again.
● “Eleazar’s Dungeon” sounds like Fuel and the Hop Garage and any number of other “alternative social spaces” that were going to give students something else to do other than go to the frats. Someone could do a fun piece on all of the different, edgy ideas that educational administrators have come up with to entice students away from the Greeks — every last one of them abject failures.
● Today’s top major is Econ (called Ecy back then, when the department was a mess); it is a fair bit more popular than Govy, which has been eclipsed by Psychology and Brain Sciences, too.
● (Ex-)Presidents still teach math.
● The Choates are still the worst dorms. They probably have been so since the day they opened.
● The legal drinking age has gone from 20 to 21, though back then, any numeral was more a guideline than a law, and neither S&S nor the Hanover Po cared much at all if students drank a beer or two or ten.
● Probably more coke now.
Correction: A reader writes in:
Eleazar’s Dungeon was founded by students / student organizations it was a comedy club set in common ground in the Collis Center. It was not an initiative from the administration.
Posted on October 11, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Tuck #2 and Always Trying Harder
Imagine a little school in New Hampshire that is utterly focused on its mission, run lean and smart, with committed students and a terrifically loyal alumni body. And it doesn’t even have the word “university” in its name. Could such a place achieve renown on the global stage?
Sure it can. The Economist has ranked Tuck as the world’s second-best business school.
We’ve written in the past how Tuck, like the Yale Law School, could be a model for Dartmouth’s renaissance.
Addendum: The Kim administration milked Tuck and the other professional schools for all it could in balancing the budget. Net tuition revenue rose dramatically over the past few years.
Addendum: The Princeton Review ranked Stanford as the top B-school in its list of The Best 296 Business Schools, 2015 Edition. Columbia came in second, Harvard was third, and Tuck ranked fourth.
Posted on October 10, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
A Campus Swimming in Alcohol
The most recent edition of the Alumni Magazine is to be commended for its clear-eyed reporting. In addition to a detailed review of the drubbing that we are taking in the national press, the most recent edition contain a gritty piece of literary journalism by Eva Xiao ‘14: Can Students Police Themselves? The answer is, well, let’s hope so. Xiao’s fluid prose describes the alcohol-and-hormone-infused life of an evening at the College from the perspective of a member of the Green Team, the student-run group that seeks to diffuse sexual assaults in the making. It is worth reading if only to compare your own undergraduate experience with that of Dartmouth’s current denizens of the night. One can’t help but feel that many students today are seeking a kind of physical and emotional anesthesia in music so loud that Xiao’s “skin hums” and such copious amounts of alcohol that drunken students are to be seen all over campus. I don’t find the picture pretty.
Xiao is an acolyte of newly tenured English Professor Jeff Sharlet, about whose own writing we commented here, and whose students have published several editions of 40 Towns (Xiao was an editor there), a publication focused on aspects of life in the Upper Valley that don’t often make it into the the glossy magazines about the area (Isaiah Berg wrote a piece in this space about 40 Towns).
Addendum: Some stories seem to hold the media’s attention — sexual assault, hazing, binge drinking — and others don’t get any traction. Cocaine use at the College is widespread, as we have reported here, here and here, but nobody seems to care.
Posted on October 10, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Something Worth Following
I’m sorry that I could not attend EVP Rick Mills’ presentation today. I don’t recall the College’s administration/finance guy ever presenting material on his own, nor taking questions in an open forum like this.
Mills, to my mind, is the most interesting player in the Hanlon administration. Let’s follow closely his ideas for setting the College right.
Addendum: Dartmouth Now reports on Mills talk here; the D’s story noted that only 115 people people were in attendance at the meeting, almost all faculty and staff.
Posted on October 9, 2014 3:30 PM. Permalink
Charlotte Goes; Trouble Follows
You will recall that Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson left Dartmouth and its 4,276 undergraduate students this summer to assume a similar role at 990-women Scripps College in California. With a career trajectory like that, I expect that she’ll be a diversity dean at Emerson College in another year or two. In any event, Scripps was in the news this week for disinviting George Will from a speaking engagement, as the Claremont Independent reports:
A prominent conservative political pundit was uninvited from speaking at Scripps College, in a program designed to promote conservative views on campus, because of his conservative views.
Nationally syndicated columnist George Will was slated to speak at the ninth annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, the mission of which is to bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students at the all-women’s college, but had his invitation rescinded after he wrote a column about sexual assault on college campuses.
“It was in the works and then it wasn’t in the works,” Will said in an interview with the Independent. “They didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.”
Will also told the Independent that Christopher DeMuth, former president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the country, resigned from his position on the program’s speaker selection committee over the decision to revoke the invitation.
The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program was established under the belief that “a range of opinions about the world - especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree - leads to a better educational experience,” according to the Scripps College website.
Hmm. I guess that Scripps wanted to hear conservative views, but only certain ones.
A review of the reporting on the issue did not link the decision to Scripps’ new Dean Johnson, but I am sure that with her extensive legal background and deep affection of the First Amendment, Charlotte was first and foremost in arguing that Will had no place on her campus.
Addendum: How tone deaf can Scripps be to the PR cost of its action? Allowing Will to speak might have singed the ears of some of its ever-so-delicate students, but at least the school would not have joined the ranks of Smith, Brandeis and Rutgers in punishing invited speakers for words that they had said or written.
Posted on October 9, 2014 2:00 PM. Permalink
Staff Wages: The Moral Issue (3/3)
Third of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
As we’ve seen, the College’s decision to overcompensate the staff have been enormously expensive. In comparison, even though Brown has a third more students and faculty than we do (and more total full-time and part-time employees), the cost of wages and benefits at Dartmouth exceeds the equivalent cost at Brown by $86,715,000 (in fiscal 2013 the College spent $475,574,000 on compensation and Brown spent $388,859,000).
This difference in compensation accounts for almost the entire gap in the cost of of running the two institutions. The fact that urban Brown is able outsource certain functions, for which the College has to employ its own staff members, does not influence the overall expense of the two schools: Dartmouth still costs $105,491,000 more each year to run than Brown ($835,273,000 versus $729,782,000). Most of this amount is covered by the extra $58 million that we are able to draw each year from our endowment — a luxury that less-well-endowed Brown does not have — and from our higher tuition and lesser financial aid.
But what if the College had been run with an eye to the excellence of the student experience, rather than the welfare of the staff? What educational opportunities are we giving up in paying hugely-above-market wages and benefits to non-faculty employees?
Obviously, we could hire many more faculty members (remember that a junior professor in the Humanities costs only slightly more than twice the annual wage of a DDS cook helper: interestingly the cook helper is not required to have even a high school diploma to apply for the job, whereas the junior faculty member has at least nine years of post-high-school education at the country’s finest colleges and universities). More professors would mean fewer students turned away when they sign up for classes (the oversubscription problem), smaller classes with greater student/professor interaction, and greater research and scholarly output.
More money directed toward education would also allow us to renovate dorms and classroom facilities that have grown long in the tooth, if not utterly decrepit. The Choates and the River Cluster were considered campus slums when I was a student in the 1970’s; today they are not only cramped and ugly, but they are filled with mold. And ask any faculty member what it is like to teach in antiquated structures like those of Dartmouth Row — superficially elegant buildings with steam radiators, leaky windows, and no ventilation. Putting fifty students in a Dartmouth Hall classroom requires open windows at all times, even if the temperatures is -20° outside — there are just so many times that students can re-breathe the same air.
Most importantly, less waste on overpaying the staff would give us the opportunity to lower tuition. I’m not talking about taking this year’s $61,947 total cost and cutting it by a few percent. Let’s be bold and cut that outrageous figure by half or even more. Recall that of the College’s total expenses of $835,273,000, only slightly less than $120,000,000 is covered by net undergraduate tuition payments.
The effect of the huge cost of attending the College cannot be overstated. As a matter of diversity, 55% of undergraduate students currently come from families who pay the entire expense of their education without financial aid — an obviously unrepresentative demographic. Additionally, this huge sticker price deters qualified, non-rich students from applying, even ones elgible for financial aid.
But most importantly, whether one is paying the cost of a quarter-million-dollar education or not, the perceived need to earn a return on such a huge investment distorts student priorities in real ways: parental pressure and looming student loan repayments force students into fields that pay well, and away from the Humanities and other more academic pursuits. The intellectual caliber of the College suffers as students grub for grades with which to impress employers, and shy away from the seemingly impractical explorations that are the soul of a liberal arts education.
You can believe all you want in setting the staff’s wages through the generous principles of social justice, but, at least to this observer, the list of foregone pedagogical opportunities and educational distortions is far too high a price to pay so that an army of cook helpers, custodians and administrators can live an existence much more comfortable than their friends working in identical jobs that pay market wages in the Upper Valley. The College has more consequential goals than being a social welfare agency, and thereby allowing the quality of Dartmouth education to decline.
Addendum: As we have documented in detail, the high cost of running the College has influenced the admissions process itself to its core. In the past few years, markedly increased attention has been given to development cases, and the College had ramped up the number of legacy, private school and early admissions admits, in addition to scaling back our financial aid program.
Posted on October 9, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Staff Wages: The Moral Issue (2/3)
Second of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Let’s compare Dartmouth’s compensation levels with the earnings of all other Americans. There are two ways to do so: we can compare cash-money wages, and we can look at the total value of wages and benefits.
First: money wages. The lowest paid DDS worker (a cook helper with no educational credentials or training of any kind) has a starting money wage at the College of $16.78/hour. That hourly wage works out to annual cash earnings of a hair under $35,000/year. Based on the chart below (derived from U.S. Census data), the College has decided in the exercise of its magnificent munificence that an unskilled Dartmouth worker with no education or professional training should be earning more money than approximately 60% of all American workers (see red arrow). Does that make sense to you?
How did the administration come to that figure, when a cook helper fifty yards away at a Main Street restaurant in Hanover is earning $11.00-$12.00/hour — a figure that is already superior to 40% of American wage earners?
Or putting my rhetorical question another way, does it now make sense to you why we are the second most expensive Ivy? Of course, it logically follows that almost all other Dartmouth workers are in the top third of America’s wage earners.
Second: Let’s look at total compensation, which at Dartmouth includes wages, pension benefits (a 9% contribution of wages for workers over 40 years of age), family health benefits (which Trustee Al Mulley once publicly said came to over $12,000/year for each employee family), and five or more weeks of vacation each year based on seniority.
By any standard, Dartmouth’s total compensation plan is extraordinarily generous. Main Street cook helpers, who already have a far lower wage than their Dartmouth equivalent, receive no pension benefit at all, and only get an employer contribution to their individual health insurance (Dartmouth’s plan, which covers entire families, is classified as a “Cadillac” plan under Obamacare rules — the College will be subject to a federal tax of $2 million each year starting in 2018 for its luxury plan). Their vacation is limited two or three weeks each year.
The College’s generosity puts a Dartmouth cook helper into a compensation category superior to 70% of American workers. The rest of the staff sits happily in the to quarter of all workers.
Now don’t get me wrong. Generosity is a good thing, but only if it is feasible in the context of the higher goals of an institution like Dartmouth. Tomorrow we’ll see what the real cost has been of grossly over-paying the thousands of members of the College’s support staff.
Addendum: We looked at the same compensation issues in greater detail a few years ago.
Posted on October 8, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink
Jim Kim Works His Magic
In a piece entitled World Bank Moves to Quell Staff Revolt, the Financial Times describes the increasing organizational chaos and staff discontent at the World Bank:
The World Bank’s chief financial officer has agreed to forgo a $94,500 annual bonus in order to quell a staff revolt hitting the bank as the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors gather in Washington for its annual meeting.
Jim Kim, the World Bank president, has been facing criticism from staff since he announced plans to radically reorganise the bank’s structure as part of a plan to make $400m in savings. But employees have been expressing increasing annoyance with the changes since they were implemented in July.
That staff revolt flared again last week after it emerged that Bertrand Badré, who joined the bank from Société Générale in March 2013, was being awarded an annual “scarce skills premium” on top of his $379,000 annual salary.
At a hastily called meeting on Tuesday that was witnessed by an FT reporter, Mr Kim told staff members that Mr Badré would be giving up his bonus. But that did not stop the president from facing a tirade of questions from concerned staff who complained of sinking morale, increasing layers of management and a culture of penny pinching as a result of the restructuring.
Is anyone in Hanover surprised?
When Jim Kim flits of to his next shiny job (the UN?), he’ll have left the same shambles at the World Bank that he did in Hanover.
Addendum: The FT is no friend of Jim Kim. In an April editorial, the paper plainly said that he was not qualified to lead the bank.
Posted on October 8, 2014 1:16 AM. Permalink
Staff Wages: The Moral Issue (1/3)
First of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
If you learned that the College had engaged the President’s brother’s construction company at twice the normal rate to do a project, you would certainly disapprove. And if the President then came to you and told you that his brother really needed the work, both for the health of his business and the well-being of his family, would you still disapprove? Of course, you would. That excuse would not change your view that the decision was an improper one. If the President wants to help someone in whom he had a personal interest, he should do so with his own resourses, not those of Dartmouth.
Obviously, the President has a fiduciary duty in spending Dartmouth’s money; he must do so as prudently as possible in order that the most money possible be available for educational pursuits — the core mission of the College as defined by its charter.
Let’s go one step further: imagine that you find out that the President, without consulting the faculty or making any public announcement, had decided to pay the 3,443-member staff of the College far above the market wage and benefits in the Upper Valley for similar labor and services. Why would he do this? He might explain that this decision is in line with his personal political views on income inequality and social justice. Would you approve now? Not me, for the same reasons as above. What are Dartmouth’s priorities? Certainly teaching, research and the residential lives of students are more important than offering generous compensation to the support staff — a term that we don’t often hear any more.
But how should wages be set? Answer: the same way that we set the cost of the other products and services that the College buys. We go out into the market, look at the price being paid by others, and make offers accordingly. If we pay less than the market, we won’t be able to hire anyone. But why pay more? Our goal should be to fill jobs at a fair rate — in this case, the wages and benefits being paid by other companies in the Upper Valley for most jobs (labor, administrative), and the wages and benefits paid by other institutions of higher learning for positions where we compete with other schools (faculty, senior administrators). We might add a slight premium in order to be known as a good employer, but other than that, why pay more than the market?
Another metric that people sometimes proffer is the notion of the living wage — a concept that contains a calculation that starts off with the assumption that the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour) is unconscionably low. From there, the local cost of living is factored in to determine what wage should be paid so that a worker can live a minimally good life. Today MIT runs the Poverty in America Project, which has created a Living Wage Calculator: a device that estimate what a fair and equitable minimum wage is in various parts of the country. Here is the current figure for Hanover (the numbers are the same for other locations in the Upper Valley):
The key figures in the chart above are the Living Wage for a single person: $9.20/hour; and for two adults and two children: $19.11. In the latter case, that figure can be divided in two if both adults work.
I can testify from both personal experience that these Living Wage figures are never discussed among employers in the Upper Valley — nor is the legal minimum wage — for one simple reason: the free-market economy of New Hampshire is sufficiently prosperous that an ad in the paper for jobs at these rates will elicit no responses at all. The federal law regarding the payment of minimum hourly wages and the moral law of the Living Wage have both been rendered obsolete by the law of supply and demand. The basic wage in our area is closer to $10.00-$11.00/hour.
Given those facts, how is it possible and/or justifiable that DDS’s starting wage for utterly unskilled SEIU workers is $16.78/hour?
Addendum: MIT’s Living Wage Calculator puts the living wage in New York City at $12.75/hour for a single adult — evidence of the high cost of living in NYC, and the more reasonable cost of life in Hanover.
Posted on October 7, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink