The Standards for a Non-Profit University.

Dec 13 2016 Published by under Academia, Education

I saw a tweet today that says something I've been thinking for quite some time in that distilled pith that twitter encourages:

This is also true of hospitals, which do not care for health or relieving suffering but only income. The modern non-profit institution is non-profit in legalese only. Make no mistake, they are there to accumulate wealth and little else. Universities are banks with the patina of education.

Thus, here I set out a few rules I would require before considering any institution of higher education to be one dedicated to truth, knowledge, and education rather than profits and incomes.

  1. At least 80% of faculty are tenure-track.
  2. At least 80% of faculty teach at least one class every semester.
  3. The faculty to administration ratio is at least 3:2.
  4. The highest paid full-time employee makes no more than 10 times the lowest paid full-time employee.
  5. All facilities and administration costs charged to grants are publicly accounted and transparent.
  6. No more than 25% of student class-hours are taught by adjunct professors*.
  7. The ratio of total salary committed to faculty to administration is no lower than 1:1.
  8. No person who does not teach at least one course a year, or directly mentor students, shall be considered "faculty".
  9. Administrative service by faculty shall be paid, protected time.
  10. All revenue minus expenses are reinvested in an endowment, scholarships, or provided as research and dissemination funds to faculty.

Universities - to be considered non-profit institutions of learning - should have to be non-profit institutions of learning. Rather than pyramidal funnels of money to an elite administrative class.


*A class that is worth 3 credit hours and has 100 students represents 300 student class-hours

14 responses so far

  • Morgan Price says:

    #1-2 I'm not sure why the existence of soft-money research faculty indicates that a university is dedicated to money rather than the pursuit of knowledge. For example, is it more ethical for a scientist to have a soft money position in a "real" faculty member's lab than for them to have their own lab?

    #4 Is it unethical to pay a janitor less than $20/hr or $40,ooo/yr, or 10% of what a lot of surgeons make?

    #6 Most community colleges would have to drastically cut the number and range of courses they offer if they didn't have lots of lower paid (adjunct) faculty. I imagine that the same funding constraints apply to many 4-year state universities.

    • dr24hours says:

      In order:

      A) Because refusing to provide tenure restricts academic freedom.

      B) "Unethical" is not the standard I apply for non-profits.

      C) This would not be true if administrative bloat and salaries were limited in the fashion described.

    • Jerome says:

      Do not confuse community colleges for universities.

  • eeke says:

    yep. The role of the 20% non-tenure faculty should be clearly defined here - research only? Same level of pay?

    • dr24hours says:

      Not necessarily research only or same pay. Adjunct faculty positions ARE actually desirable for some people. But limit their exposure.

      As for "research only" - if they don't at least mentor students, they are not faculty.

  • EPJ says:

    Great points, sadly reality is not taken into account.

  • EPJ says:

    Hi, you can say that when and where it applies, and then just stretch out further and connect the dots to see that the same thing is all over: law-words-a game that does not match reality, that it is taking down many needed things.

    So, it needs reorganization within but also from outside the academia realm that is connected to it, even for a slice of the population cake. Sorry, but I think that is correct.

  • David says:

    #4 - I assume you are exempting the football and basketball coaches from this rule 😉

    On a serious side, at some research universities I am familiar with, there is a questionable line drawn between the university lab run by a professor and the for-profit company owned by that professor. There are some potential benefits to the students by having the professor involved in "real world applications", but also an awful lot of conflicts of interest. How much separation is necessary to be a true non-profit?

  • Rheophile says:

    Most of these points are about how much universities support their faculty/other employees. However, non-profits can have (honestly and ethically) missions beyond just treating their employees well. If a community college wants to make sure that its classes are accessible and its tuition is low, and decides hiring a bunch of adjuncts is the best way to do that, maybe that's not terrible. Similarly, soft money can be bad for some scientists - but could be a good way to accomplish science!

    So to me, these don't seem like great principles. The real principle that the complaints about administration are hinting at: don't waste money on things tangential to the fundamental purpose of your organization.

    • dr24hours says:

      How a university treats its faculty are critical. And there is a reason I'm restricting this to universities, and not community colleges or "non-profits" as a whole. Your points about those other institutions may be fine ones, but are not relevant here.

  • Zuska says:

    A non profit uni such as you outline would be feasible if we as a society valued learning more than things - nice new dorms, food courts, sports programs, etc.
    If we could get rid of paid sports altogether - college, professional, Olympics (don't tell me it's amateur), whatever - and free up those resources for education...ah...just dreaming.

  • Dave says:

    At least 80% of faculty are tenure-track.


  • Ruthmarie Hicks says:

    Well, you've pretty much eliminated every university in the US....which says a great deal about how we value education.

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