Buying the Best: Cost Escalation in Elite Higher Education

Overview

Since the early 1980s the rapidly increasing cost of college, together with what many see as inadequate attention to teaching, has elicited a barrage of protest. Buying the Best looks at the realities behind these criticisms - at the economic factors that are in fact driving the institutions that have been described as machines without brakes. In designing his study, Charles Clotfelter examines the escalation in spending in the arts and sciences at four elite institutions: Harvard, Duke, Chicago, and Carleton. He...
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Overview

Since the early 1980s the rapidly increasing cost of college, together with what many see as inadequate attention to teaching, has elicited a barrage of protest. Buying the Best looks at the realities behind these criticisms - at the economic factors that are in fact driving the institutions that have been described as machines without brakes. In designing his study, Charles Clotfelter examines the escalation in spending in the arts and sciences at four elite institutions: Harvard, Duke, Chicago, and Carleton. He argues that the rise in costs has less to do with increasing faculty salaries or lowered productivity than with a broad-based effort to improve quality, provide new services to students, pay for large investments in new facilities and equipment (including computers), and insure access for low-income students through increasingly expensive financial aid. In Clotfelter's view spiraling costs arise from the institutions' lofty ambitions and are made possible by steadily intensifying demand for places in the country's elite colleges and universities. Only if this demand slackens will universities be pressured to make cuts or pursue efficiencies. Buying the Best is the first study to make use of the internal historical records of specific institutions, as opposed to the frequently unreliable aggregate records made available by the federal government for the use of survey researchers. As such, it has the virtue of allowing Clotfelter to draw much more realistic comparative conclusions than have hitherto been reported. While acknowledging the obvious drawbacks of the small sample, Clotfelter notes that the institutions studied are significant for the disproportionate influence they, and comparable elite institutions, exercise in research and in the training of future leaders.
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Editorial Reviews

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"Charles Clotfelter, an economist and former vice provost and vice chancellor at Duke University, examines the explanations for the rapid growth in spending in the nation's leading private research universities since 1976-77 . . . Buying the Best is a thought-provoking and compelling analysis, with implications well beyond its focus on higher education."—Contemporary Sociology
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Foreword
Preface
List of Abbreviations
Ch. 1 The Problem of Rising Costs 1
Ch. 2 A Peculiar Institution 20
Appendix 2.1 A Simple Financial Model of a University 51
Appendix 2.2 Decomposing Rates of Growth in Expenditures 57
Ch. 3 Boom Times for Selective Institutions 58
Appendix 3.1 Supplementary Tables for Chapter 3 77
Ch. 4 Patterns and Trends in Expenditures 82
Appendix 4.1 Dealing with Interdepartmental Transfers and Recharges 117
Appendix 4.2 Categories Used to Create Expenditure Tables 121
Appendix 4.3 Trends in Duke Expenditures from 1976/77 to 1983/84 135
Ch. 5 The Sources of Rising Expenditures 139
Appendix 5.1 Supplementary Tables for Chapter 5 159
Ch. 6 Administrative Functions 162
Ch. 7 The Allocation of Faculty Effort 179
Appendix 7.1 Options for Providing Classroom Instruction 205
Appendix 7.2 Calculation of Classroom Teaching Loads and Course Characteristics 206
Appendix 7.3 Data on Committee Membership 216
Ch. 8 Classes and Course Offerings 218
Appendix 8.1 Supplementary Tables for Chapter 8 240
Ch. 9 Ambition Meets Opportunity 247
Notes to the Chapters 265
Bibliography 285
Index 293
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