Campus Reform | 5 Big Questions for Professor Ben Ginsberg

5 Big Questions for Professor Ben Ginsberg

Ginsberg has found that administrative bloat and under-resourcing of instructors has eroded educational opportunities for students.

Professor Ben Ginsberg, chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told Campus Reform that universities are misallocating their resources to the detriment of their students and faculty.

Ginsberg, a critic of what he calls “the all-administrative university,” says colleges are hiring too many administrators and not enough professors: “There are now more deans, deanlets, deanlings, ding-a-lings, and ding-dongs than there are faculty members,” he said.

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Ginsberg has found that administrative bloat and under-resourcing of instructors has eroded educational opportunities for students. He once tried to add two sections to an international politics class, due to overwhelming interest from students. The administration refused him the funding for additional instructors and asked him to tell students to take different classes, even in unrelated subjects.

Universities are incentivized to “sell” the school to students while keeping faculty costs down, Ginsberg says, noting that “Students are customers, faculty are cost factors, and don’t you want to have more customers and fewer cost factors? That’s administrative thought.” 

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Many colleges, Ginsberg says, are kept financially afloat only by the perpetual increase in the amount of money students are permitted to borrow. He has proposed a “clawback” system that would repay student debt for degrees that did not help students in the job market, similar to the clawback system used to help victims of notorious Ponzi scheme orchestrator Bernie Madoff. “A lot of colleges and universities that we see today are not going to be here ten years from now, if they can’t constantly increase the amount of money students can borrow,” he says.

Though he is a proponent of free-market economics, Ginsberg says that incoming college students lack the knowledge to make decisions as customers. He encourages students and parents to tune out the salesmanship of college tours and instead seek out ways to speak with faculty, who, he says, will give a more honest look at the university.

Follow the interviewer on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito