The decline of college

The four-year campus experience is simply vanishing. At the California State University system, the largest university complex in the world, well under 20 percent of students graduate in four years despite massive student aid. Fewer than half graduate in six years.

Administrators used to come from among the top faculty, who rotated a few years from teaching and scholarship to do the unenviable nuts-and-bolts work of running the university. Now, administrators rarely, if ever, teach. Instead, they became part of a high-paid, careerist professional caste — one that has grown exponentially. In the CSU system, their numbers have exploded in recent years — a 221 percent increase from 1975 to 2008. There are now more administrators in that system than full-time faculty.

College acceptance was supposed to be a reward for hard work and proven excellence in high school, not a guaranteed entitlement of open admission. Yet more than half of incoming first-year students require remediation in math and English during, rather than before attending, college. That may explain why six years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, about the same number never graduate.