What did Zeppos say? The annual cost to Vandebilt University of complying with federal regulations "equates to approximately $11,000 in additional tuition per year" for students.
Zeppos' math was simple: In 2013, Vanderbilt spent $146M in compliance costs. Divide that amount by 12.8k students. Bingo: ~$11k/student.
Moving in to protect their Left flank, Insider Higher Ed reports the stormy petrels were howling:
- "largely inaccurate";
- "awfully misleading";
- "an inflamatory number";
- "the figure can't be taken at face value";
- "students don’t bear the bulk of those costs, especially those linked to research";
- "not an addition to tuition. It’s a calibrating mechanism to help people understand, at Vanderbilt only, how big is this number”; and,
- “It’s an inflammatory number...it’s a figure made even more provocative by the fact that the cost of college is a big concern for many Americans, so anything that appears to add to that bottom line is troublesome."
In short, "Stop politicizing our little ballywack."
But, Zeppos was packing some additional heat. His ~$11k figure came from a 2014 study by the Boston Consulting Group. That study happens to be one of the only substantive reports of an individual institution’s costs for comprehensive compliance.
Then, too, HELP's Chair, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), took to a Wall Street Journal op-ed to publicize the little-known facts:
- in 2013, $146M in total compliance costs;
- $117M in research compliance costs (~17% of the overall research budget);
- $14M in higher-education specific compliance costs, including for accreditation;
- $14M in non-higher education specific compliance costs (including, among others, compliance with human resources, immigration and finance regulations); and,
- 4% of the non-research budget for non-research specific compliance costs.
Senator Alexander wrote:
Clear out the federal red tape that soaks up state dollars that could otherwise go to help reduce tuition. In one year Vanderbilt University spent a startling $150 million complying with federal rules and regulations governing higher education, adding more than $11,000 to the cost of each Vanderbilt student’s $43,000 in tuition.
Reporters from The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Hechinger Report challenged Zeppos' numbers. Others have said his numbers mix apples and oranges. Yet others accuse Zeppos of partisan politics, as he is the Co-Chair of a HELP Committee Task Force looking into the cost of federal regulations to U.S. higher education. The Task Force issued a report in February 2015 stating: "Colleges and universities find themselves enmeshed in a jungle of red tape, facing rules that are often confusing and difficult to comply with." The report added that some regulations have excessive reach and drive colleges' costs up. "Smarter rules are needed."
The question is: Are compliance regulations too burdensome for the nation's colleges and universities?
The little-known and well-hidden fact--compliance costs are driving up the costs of higher education--is one that big government liberals absolutely didn't want made public. What they want is for the folks to live under the delusion that the federal government is on their side, not passing indirect tax burdens onto them. What they also want is for the Millennials to live under the delusion that the federal government "has their back."
In The Motley Monk's opinion, what those big government liberals have is their hand in the Millennials' back pocket. They're confiscating its contents through higher tuition costs today and student loan debt that will be coming due tomorrow.
For U.S. higher education, Zeppos' testimony was the equivalent of the Planned Parenthood videos.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Inside Higher Ed articles, click on the following links:
To watch Zepos' HELP testimony, click on the following link:
To read the Boston Consulting Group report, click on the following link:
To read Senator Alexander's op-ed, click on the following link: