Letter: Dartmouth’s Profligate Generosity

To the Editor:

Your Dec. 19 editorial, “Educational Bonanza,” decrying the enormous salaries paid to college presidents was right on the mark as regards Dartmouth’s former president Jim Kim. How could the college’s trustees justify paying Kim over a million dollars in his first year at Dartmouth, when this sum was substantially greater than the compensation paid to the experienced presidents of Princeton, Harvard, Brown and Cornell — all far larger schools than Dartmouth?

However, you then go on to express a concern about how presidents’ high salaries relate to the elevated cost of higher education in America, when an academic leader’s wage is no more than an infinitesimal drop in the overspending that has led to annual tuition, room and board, and fees at many institutions of over $55,000 this year.

The real culprit is mismanagement. Dartmouth, for example, went from 2,400 nonfaculty employees in 1999 to close to 3,200 today, with virtually no change in the number of students on campus. And the salaries, benefits and vacations of many of Dartmouth’s non-faculty staffers are double what workers earn in equivalent jobs in the Upper Valley.

While this state of affairs might gladden the hearts of people who feel that elevated wages are an expression of social justice, the total cost of Dartmouth’s new employees and the wage premium for the entire staff are hundreds of times greater than the excessive compensation paid to college presidents. The cost of all this profligate generosity is borne by students, who are meant to be served by their schools; a Dartmouth education is now the second most expensive in the Ivy League.

Today, Dartmouth and a great many other institutions of higher learning resemble nothing so much as bloated American corporations from the 1970s — slow-moving, underperforming and burdened by massive and unnecessary costs. A president’s high salary is only the visible tip of huge underlying budget problems.

Joseph Asch



Editorial: Educational Bonanza

Monday, December 17, 2012

What goes up must come down — except in higher education, where the laws of physics don’t seem to apply. Tuition goes up year after year. So goes student debt, which now exceeds $1 trillion. And up go the paychecks of college presidents. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this month in its annual survey of private colleges and …