A Real Numbers-Cruncher Weighs in on the Campos Article

Rudy Fichtenbaum has sent me the following statistical analysis in response to the assertions made by Campos in the article in the New York Times and as a follow-up to my own post on that article.

I don’t think that anything that Rudy points out in this analysis substantially contradicts anything that I have asserted in my own post, but where there are any inconsistencies, I will gladly defer to his data and to his analysis.


Here is some more data to further refute the claims in the Campos article in the New York Times.

The following Excel spreadsheet, along with the graphs representing the data in the spreadsheet, show state support for higher education per student, which is the way to compare state support with tuition.

State Support for Higher Ed and Tuition

Allocation of Emplotees Graph 1

Allocation of Emplotees Graph 2

State Support and Tuition


Just talking about the absolute inflation adjusted state support is very misleading because it doesn’t take into account the increase in the number of students. Tuition is a payment per student. No one would ever just look at tuition revenue because it also goes up as enrollment increases even if you don’t raise tuition. One issue I did not address is that this is the list price for tuition and not the discounted tuition. What the graph shows is 1) state support is cyclical and 2) it peaked in 1987 and has been trending down since then. There was an especially sharp decline in 2001 (a recession year) and another sharp decline in 2009 (the Great Recession). In fact, state spending per student adjusted for inflation was about at the same level as it was in 1966-67.

Tuition adjusted for inflation increased moderately until the mid 1980’s. There was a little spurt from 1969-73 during a period of rapid inflation but then real tuition actually declined from 1976-81. The real escalation in tuition started 1984-85 and really began picking up steam in the 1990’s.

One way of looking at the graph is to note that between 1965 and 1987 real tuition increased at an average annual rate of 2.3%. and real state spending per student also rose an an average annual rate of 2.1%. The earliest data available on faculty salaries is from 1970-71. From FY 71 to FY 83 real faculty salaries fell 14%. So clearly during the period from 1965 through 1983 when real tuition was increasing it was not because of increases in faculty salaries  and it wasn’t a reaction to declining state support so we can attribute it to administrative bloat.

By 2002 real faculty salaries made up the ground lost from 1971. So between 1971 and 2002, for all intents and purposes, full-time faculty did not get a raise. This of course says nothing about the growing use of part-time faculty whose salaries almost never go up, certainly not in real terms. After 2002 faculty salaries rose a little and then declined again in real terms.

Between 1988 and 2015 real tuition increased at an average annual rate of 4.2%, almost double the rate from 1965 to 1987. At the same time, real state support per student declined at an average annual rate of 1.3%. So, during this period, higher tuition can be attributed to both cuts in state support for higher education and administrative bloat.


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