Why More Colleges Might Want To Measure What Regulation Costs Them

Career College Central summary:

  • Many people in higher education complain about the increasing burdens of regulation, with some insisting that it has driven administrative bloat, but the exact toll on colleges remains a mystery. That’s because very few colleges have bothered to measure the cost of compliance in dollars or employee time, because that task is too complicated or too costly in itself. But it may be time that some colleges tried.
  • In November four U.S. senators announced the formation of a task force of 14 college presidents and higher-education officials who will examine the effect of regulation on colleges. One of those presidents is Margaret L. Drugovich of Hartwick College, who has been talking to other college leaders about starting to measure regulatory burdens. Some presidents have told her that the job is just too big.
  • Drugovich’s institution, in fact, has completed a study of the costs of regulatory compliance, which she discussed at the CIC meeting. Hartwick’s audit gives an incomplete assessment of the college’s regulatory burden, Drugovich acknowledged, because the college measured only the time that employees spent on completing compliance-reporting forms.
  • The numbers reveal quite a bit about the array of organizations the college must respond to: 28 federal agencies, 15 state agencies, seven accrediting agencies, four local governments, three athletic associations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and four miscellaneous private organizations.
  • Each year Hartwick employees spend about 7,200 hours on compliance reporting, at a cost of about $300,000 to the institution. Just over 100 Hartwick employees and six Aramark contractors working for Hartwick have some role in compliance tasks. In the grand scheme of things, $300,000 might not seem like a lot of money, but Drugovich implored the audience to keep some things in mind: The study assessed only the cost of reporting activities and did not measure all the opportunity costs associated with regulation throughout the college. The big question, she said, is which regulations are necessary and helpful, and which are burdensome, contradictory, and stifling innovation.

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