Cut Waste at This Temple, and I Will Praise It in Three Days

Temple University just announced that it is raising tuition by ten percent, blaming the new state budget.  Temple is an outstanding example of an institution that should have spent the months since Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address—when it became apparent that its generous subsidy from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania would likely be cut—fixing its biggest problems rather than lobbying for more of your money.  While Temple’s statement brags about reducing its budget by $36 million, that’s only about half of last year’s proposed $69 million increase, and there’s no indication it addressed pesky facts such as the following.

  • Less than a third of Temple students earn a diploma in the expected four years, and less than two thirds earn one in six.  Of course, Pennsylvania taxpayers don’t get their money back when students don’t get degrees on time, or don’t get them at all.
  • Those students who are fortunate enough to graduate from Temple do so with a boulder of debt chained to their ankles—$29,886 on average.
  • Temple allows students to meet requirements with lots of courses that would raise taxpayers’ eyebrows.  For instance, Temple students can take “Sport & Leisure in American Society” to learn about their country and a course offering “fresh perspectives, questions, and ideas on current issues from Google searches to the randomness of the iPod shuffle” to strengthen their math skills.  Rather than lots of niche courses like this, a few solid, simple sections of plain old American history and calculus save money.
  • According to data supplied by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Temple increased its administrative spending by 29.1 percent between the 2003-2004 and 2008-2009 school years—to the tune of nearly $18 million.  To quote from that math course, there’s a “current issue” about which Temple students might have a few “questions.”

Why does this matter?  Simple.  At Temple and our other public universities, taxpayers are putting up big bucks to pay for many students who don’t get the results we expect: a solid education in a reasonable amount of time. Given this, it’s not just appropriate that Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly have delivered a wake-up call.  It’s their obligation.  I for one salute them for doing so yesterday, and I hope that this time, Temple responds to the wake-up call with dramatic reforms at home, not dramatized lobbying in Harrisburg.