One of the sadder elements of the current difficulties in the university is just how little sway the faculty-- the people who actually disseminate and generate knowledge-- have in decisions about the fundamental structure of the university.
Here's what I mean specifically. It really does seem that, though there are a variety of factors, the biggest individual contributor to rising college costs is administrative costs. As I've told you many times, a lot of these issues are intertwined: more administrators is both a function and a cause of the rampant mission creep of universities, the rising number of activities and services that universities provide for students... which cost money. Now, part of our duty to tamp down these costs certainly involves cutting programs, which will be painful but necessary.
But there's always going to be administrative tasks that have to happen. Part of the rise in administrative costs stems from the fact that jobs that used to be performed by faculty members are now performed by dedicated administrators. That means that you've got to pay another salary and for another set of benefits, and since the university tends to give employees living wages and generous benefits packages-- to its great credit-- this is expensive. You might assume that faculty members want it to be this way, but many faculty members actually would relish the opportunity to take over some of the administrative duties that have been farmed out. (Personally, I'm pursuing a designation in writing program administration in my own doctoral program.) Benjamin Ginsberg wrote a really great primer on these issues called The Fall of the Faculty that I recommend to anyone with an interest in higher education.
A lot of the job of clawing back these appointments and responsibilities simply has to come from the upper levels of university leadership, and potentially from the state legislatures when it comes to public U's. But we also need to demonstrate to faculty that this work is valuable and valued within the institution. That's why it's imperative, if the faculty is to regain some administrative control and if we're to reduce costs, that we factor administrative duties into the tenure review process. I don't have a strict formula here-- a full year as a program admin is the same as one journal article, etc.-- but there's got to be allowance made for the fact that this is important, time-consuming work that should be professionally valued. Faculty members who feel the great pressure to publish have to know that they aren't endangering their careers by taking on this kind of work. This problem needs to be alleviated from above the faculty level, but it's also got to be addressed within the apparatus of professional advancement.