No surprises come from new report on U spending

The Institute for Policy Studies should provide better context.

A self-described “progressive multi-issue think tank,” the Institute for Policy Studies released a high-profile report last week labeling the University of Minnesota as the fourth-most “unequal” public university in the nation regarding its spending.

The report accounted for executive pay rates, student debt levels and the rate at which institutions are adding adjunct or contingent faculty. It initially ranked the University at No. 3 in the nation for scoring highly in all three categories, which University administrators strongly refuted. IPS later revised its report, dropping the University to fourth-most unequal spending.

When IPS initially released the report, University President Eric Kaler told the Minnesota Daily that IPS “simply didn’t understand the data well enough to get the results that they claim.”

We believe there’s some truth to this point, and the IPS appeared overly eager to go on the offensive. This is not the first time the University has received criticism based on unequal spending, and likely not the last. The Wall Street Journal called out the University in 2012, and as a result, administrators sought third-party spending reviews and are working with lawmakers.

The three schools IPS ranks higher than the University for unequal spending — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — are all Big Ten peers. These institutions all have expansive operations and, thus, greater administrative spending, which has already received public criticism.

In regard to the increasing use of adjuncts and ever-growing student debt, the University and its peers aren’t alone. These are trends across higher education, and it’s unfair to pick just a few schools to criticize. The IPS report’s content seemed overtly politicized right down to its title, “The One Percent at State U.”

We believe that criticism of higher education, like the IPS report, needs to come with better context, and we believe it must not oversimplify large, systematic problems.