In an age of austerity, basic may make a comeback - Chronicle.com Like everything else- cars, weddings, bodies- college has been getting more expensive and more "perfect." Perfectly maintained buildings and grounds, dining halls and dorms that are way nicer than anywhere I eat or have ever lived, even a few climbing walls and protein shake bars thrown in along the way. The price for all this "perfection" has been high- with students and families taking on more and more debt as college tuition and fees have risen much faster than the rate of inflation. Now Penn State is contemplating what a "basic" "no frills" university would look like. The two targeted "frills" are tenure and athletics. Maybe tenure and sports are really what's pushing up the cost of college, but I doubt it. America's universities suffer from the same problem as America's corporations- too many "executives" taking way too much pay. Look around any college campus today and you'll see a whole lot of Vice Presidents and Deans, most of whom are earning 3 or even 4 times what even a tenured professor makes. Of course these executives say they wouldn't work for less, that they'd rather go to a different school than work for less than $250K a year, but the truth is, there's nowhere else to go and even if they left, the real basis of college- education- would be left in place. What we really need in higher ed is professors and students. The administrators, along with the Wall Street bankers, aren't actually part of the productivity. They were really good at raising more and more money to sell us more and more stuff we didn't need. College administrators should be given an F for selling us the "perfect" college experience- with all its sleekness and bigness and newness- and losing sight of what really matters- classrooms, books, intellectual engagement, and yes, even community. Maybe if Penn State really wants a No Frills U, they should start by limiting the number of administrators and, more importantly, their pay.