Students’ Ire Is Misplaced

As I write this, there are Pennsylvania college students walking past our State Capitol holding signs reading, “Save Our System.”  It’s understandable:  Since Gov. Corbett outlined his budget, these students have heard the presidents of their universities say that it will be “devastating” (Penn State), that it features “stunningly deep” cuts (Pitt), that it “will mean major changes” (Shippensburg), that it will cause “the students…[to] suffer the most” (Millersville), and that it will have a “dramatic impact…on the university community” (IUP).  No wonder they are afraid their tuition will go up and their education will suffer if the Governor gets his way.

But the students are focusing their outrage on the wrong place.

Rather than demanding more money from taxpayers, these students should be demanding more for their money from their own administrators.

The place they should be picketing is their own administration buildings, not in Harrisburg.

The areas to target are many (see our Top Ten List, or the Center for College Affordability and Productivity’s 25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College, or the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s Cutting Costs: A Trustee’s Guide to Tough Economic Times), but just to take the aforementioned institutions in order: Penn State isn’t fully utilizing its buildings, according to its own strategic plan.  Pitt’s administrative staff per 100 students grew by 54.7 percent between 1993 and 2007, according to the Goldwater Institute.  Shippensburg allows its students to graduate without taking college-level math, a workforce essential, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.  And both Millersville and IUP have policies that violate the First Amendment, which (in addition to being offensive to students’ intelligence) can be expensive, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The protesting students are right:  They are being disserved.  But the culprit isn’t Gov. Corbett or the taxpayers he’s rightly trying to protect.  It’s the universities that are wrongly telling them they can’t do more with less, just like everyone else in this economy.