For many months now, Glenn Reynolds, the genius loci of the popular internet site Instapundit, has been speculating about “the higher education bubble”—the phenomenon of costs at our institutions of higher education spiraling ever upwards, rising at a rate far, far in excess of the rate of inflation. Mirabile dictum, it now costs significantly more than $50,000 per annum to attend college at 100 institutions (up from fifty-eight last year and five the year before). But this, as The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last month, is hardly surprising: the cost of administering college has also risen dramatically.

By “the cost of administering,” incidentally, we mean the cost of administrators. In 2008, thirty college presidents made more than $1 million. Bernard Lander, the president of Touro College in New York, had a total compensation package of $4.8 million when he died last February. What, we wonder, do parents think of such facts when they haul out their check books when the tuition demands come in. “Bubbles burst,” Reynolds noted in a column last June, “when there are no longer enough excessively optimistic and ignorant folks to fuel them. And there are signs that this is beginning to happen already.” More and more people are beginning to question whether a college degree is really worth more than a quarter of a million dollars. “Buyers see that everyone else is taking on mounds of debt,” Reynolds writes, “and so are more comfortable when they do so themselves; besides, for a generation, the value of what they’re buying has gone up steadily. What could go wrong? Everything continues smoothly until, at some point, it doesn’t.” That point, we suspect, is coming soon to an insolvent institution near you.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 Number 4, on page 3
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