When Vanderbilt University discovered it spends about $11,000 per student on compliance, politicians pounced on the figure as evidence of government overreach.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), who oversees the Senate committee on education, used the figure in an op-ed last month to argue that regulation is driving up the cost of tuition.
But others questioned the statistic, and the Chronicle of Higher Education asked Vanderbilt several times for more details. Last Friday, the university replied with presentation slides, a fact sheet, and a report summary.
The documents reveal that the Chronicle's prior estimate was correct—most ($117 million) of Vanderbilt's $150 million in compliance costs goes toward research administration. But Vanderbilt receives special funding from the federal government to help cover the cost of doing research—about $57 for every $100 in grants.
And in contradiction to what some politicians claimed, the $11,000 per student figure does not represent an "addition to tuition," says Brett Sweet, Vanderbilt's CFO. "It's a calibrating mechanism to help people understand" Vanderbilt's calculations (Woodhouse, Inside Higher Ed, 8/3; Thomason, "The Ticker," Chronicle of Higher Education, 7/31).
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