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> Since 1980, the number of administrators per student at colleges has about doubled

I don't doubt that's true; I see it at my college. But I also see at my college that the percentage of students who need extensive administrative attention has shot up in the past ten years. (I teach at a SLAC, so if I have a concern about a student then I call an appropriate administrator and they genuinely try to see if the student is OK. For instance, not too long ago I called about a student and it turned out to be a suicide risk and my call and others prompted an intervention, and the student is OK. I don't know how many hours of administrator attention was clocked on this one person but I expect it was a lot.)




There may well be a need for more administrators these day. Not saying I agree, but I'm sure some people (like Jonathan Haidt) would say this is because we over-coddle young people – and by the time they reach college they are not as independent as students a generation ago.

Note: I am not at all saying this applies to suicide risks, which obviously are not new and which colleges have had support staff for going way back.


> some people (like Jonathan Haidt) would say this is because we over-coddle young people

I'm sorry, I don't know that person. But we try our best to deal with who we have in front of us. I don't know what else we can do, in good conscience.

I am not saying that all additional admins are accounted for by this kind of thing. I don't know enough about it. (Actually the cost is a mystery to me but I've never been an admin of any kind.) I'm only saying that some of the increase I see on the ground is in response to trying to meet real needs.


Jonathan Haidt is a famous social psychology professor at NYU, whose work has been widely cited in recent years. He co-authored the book The Coddling of the American Mind: https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Gen...


Agreed. I think a big part of that is the expansion of access to the academy that we've seen since 1980. Applicants to Berkeley increased 4-fold from 1976 to 1986. (It's gone up another 4-fold in applicants and two-fold enrollments since then.) The increased applicant pool and enrollments probably means that a lot more less-well-prepared students were attending, and the schools staffed up administrative services to meet those students' needs: https://academic-senate.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/kar...

We've also added a lot of services for disabled students, transfer students, etc. All to the good, I would say give more students access to a quality education, but the services needed for 6,000 students of 80,000 applicants is way different from when they were enrolling 3,000 students of the 5,500 who applied.


It's good that the student got help, but these students are adults, aren't they? Why can't they use the same resources as everyone else?


I probably come from a very certain camp on these kinds of issues, but...

Most students are hardly adults. They look it, but they are not necessarily yet fully equipped to manage themselves.

And what if the people the same age who didn’t attend college— well, I would push for more and improved social programs to help them. Of course then you could reduce the staff at the colleges.

I’m all for being proactive about rising needs like social and mental health issues, but I also think a reactive response needs to take place in the interim.

The approach of “here’s a helpline phone number, now deal with it” hasn’t proven effective so far so why lean into it?


Because raising the cost of uni for everyone including poor folks to provide a bundled service they don’t need is not fair to them.


somewhat cynical perspective: maybe the long-term cost of a suicide on campus is greater than the cost to prevent them? one or two over the course of many years is sad, but probably not that damaging to the institution. on the other hand, if your school becomes an outlier, you probably start to feel it in the admissions department.




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