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DEI-Obsessed Universities Overprice Degrees And Under-Deliver On Them

Spending on DEI has taken away valuable resources that could have been committed to supporting more students and improving education outcomes.

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The University of Florida recently announced it would end the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy on campus. More universities should follow suit.

Last May, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 266, the so-called anti-woke law, prohibiting institutions from spending federal or state dollars on discriminatory initiatives, such as DEI programs. A month later, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a similar bill into law for the Lone Star State.

In compliance with Florida’s anti-woke law, the University of Florida, the state’s largest public university, said it would fire all DEI staff, shut down its DEI office, and suspend DEI contracts with outside vendors. The university will redistribute its $5 million-a-year DEI budget to a faculty recruitment fund. Ben Sasse, UF’s president and former Republican senator from Nebraska, said a university’s core mission is “to prepare for life and thoughtful citizenship and engagement and caring about the good, the true, and the beautiful.”

Unfortunately, the primary focus of many colleges and universities around the nation continues to be promoting DEI, not educating young people. A 2021 report by the Heritage Foundation found colleges and universities have devoted significant resources to establishing and operating the DEI bureaucracy. For example, in 2021, the University of Michigan had 163 DEI employees, 14 times more than the staff assisting students with disabilities. Virginia Tech had 83 DEI staffers, and it was one of several universities with twice as many DEI personnel as history faculty, which tells you what the school’s priorities are.

The DEI bureaucracy has expanded and become more expensive since the Heritage Report. The DEI staffers at the University of Michigan have ballooned to 241 in 2024, costing the university more than $30 million for the 2023-2024 school year. The number of DEI employees at Ohio State University has grown from 88 in 2018 to 189 in 2023, costing taxpayers $20.38 million annually.

High DEI Salaries, Low-Value Degrees

Some DEI officers at major universities command incredibly high salaries. Robert Sellers, Michigan’s vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, made $431,000 annually until he stepped down in 2022. Open the Books, a federal spending watchdog, estimates that the 2023 pay and benefits for the University of Virginia’s senior associate dean and global chief diversity officer, Martin N. Davidson, were $587,340, and for Kevin McDonald, vice president for DEI and community partnership, were $521,905.

UVA’s entire DEI bureaucracy likely costs taxpayers $20 million a year, enough to fund a year’s tuition and fees for 1,000 in-state students. The costly DEI bureaucracy is one of the reasons why college tuition inflation, which averaged 12 percent annually between 2010 and 2022, has increased more than any consumer good or service. 

The spending on DEI has taken away valuable resources that could have been committed to supporting more students’ academic pursuits and improving education outcomes. The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly half of college graduates in America work in jobs that don’t require college degrees or college-level skill sets. Since the average student loan debt is about $30,000, these underemployed college graduates should demand a refund from their schools. College administrators are probably aware that they’ve sold American parents and students an overpriced, under-delivered product, which is why they don’t want their schools’ performance measured by how many graduates work in the field associated with their degrees.

Recently, leaders of several Pennsylvania universities, including Temple and Penn State, were at a state assembly hearing on college funding. The state’s Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed increasing funding for the universities by $30 million and distributing it through a performance-based formula. Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford, the ranking Republican member of the House Education Committee, asked these university leaders if they measured how many graduates work in the field associated with their degrees and whether such a measure should be part of their schools’ performance evaluation.

One of the university leaders replied that “whether a person works in the industry associated with their degree isn’t necessarily a measure of a successful college education.” Suppose a car salesman tells customers it’s not necessarily a sign of failure if a car costs $50,000 and only works half the time. Customers would walk away, and the car company would be out of business. 

Families Should Vote with Their Feet

It’s time colleges and universities recommitted to their core mission: education. An excellent place to start is dismantling the expensive, ineffective, and often harmful DEI bureaucracy on campus and redistributing the money for DEI bureaucracy to educate young people and better prepare them for a fulfilling life.

Most colleges and universities won’t dismantle the DEI bureaucracy voluntarily. Republicans in state legislatures should learn from Florida and Texas and try to end DEI in higher education through legislation. Meanwhile, families should vote with their dollars by sending their kids to colleges and universities that focus on academic pursuits rather than DEI.

Hopefully, through the joint effort of political and market forces, American higher education can finally rid itself of the DEI bureaucracy and recommit to teaching American youth the knowledge and skills they need to be thoughtful and productive citizens.


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