Research Associate: Student Debt and Administrative Growth

Job Posting

National Association of Scholars

  • Article
  • August 06, 2019

***This position is filled.***

Position: Research Associate: Student Debt and Administrative Growth

Reports to: Director of Research

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) seeks a full-time Research Associate to lead a project researching and writing about administrative growth at colleges and universities and evaluating the effect this has on increasing student debt.

The National Association of Scholars is a $1.4 million non-profit higher education reform organization. NAS works to improve American higher education by supporting high intellectual standards, academic freedom, and institutional transparency in colleges and universities. It opposes racial preferences and promotes the teaching of the Western tradition. To learn more about NAS, visit

About the Project

Tuition costs at colleges and universities across the United States have risen at an astronomic rate over the past several decades, outpacing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and even the run-up in the cost of healthcare.

This astonishing increase in the price of college is difficult to explain if a college education is understood as a regular consumer good subject to market discipline. Higher education does not operate this way. Rather, it functions as a government-protected, heavily-subsidized monopoly.

Barriers to new entrants are formidable and many colleges intentionally remain a lot smaller than they could be. With a limit on supply, the price of tuition goes up. Simultaneously with the restriction of supply, federal subsidies to students have also risen dramatically. Market forces are pushing both the supply and demand to drive up the cost of college, with students offered few alternatives, and colleges offered no incentives to change.

The ability to raise prices with little penalty makes colleges and universities cash rich. What do they do with money? Build new buildings and hire more administrators.

Why are colleges and universities investing so heavily in campus infrastructure and administrators rather than the quality of the curriculum and the number of faculty?

The National Association of Scholars proposes to research this question and to explore the extent to which the anti-competitive, state-subsidized nature of higher education has contributed to the rapid increase in tuition costs for students over the past four decades.

NAS will issue a report presenting snapshots for 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020, at 50 universities, detailing the total number of administrators and their different subdivisions. In so doing, we will demonstrate not only the current state of affairs surrounding administrative bloat and skyrocketing tuition rates, but also show how this changed over the course of decades.

Many of these positions support diversity, inclusion, or various other topics related tangentially, if at all, to student education. In many cases, these departments become self-inflating, demanding and acquiring ever larger budgets and administrator salaries at the expense of student learning.

Many colleges and universities allege that students benefit from this arrangement. We are not so sure. Does the alleged benefit exceed the real cost? That’s a question we intend to investigate more thoroughly.

Principal Responsibilities:

  • Lead research project on current administrative growth at universities and the effect this has on student learning and student debt. This includes gathering new data, interviewing college and university officials, and reviewing previous studies.
  • Write report on administrative growth and student debt, including recommendations for reform.
  • Work with other NAS staff to organize a launch event for the report, and speak at the event.
  • Write short articles on these issues for publication.
  • Represent NAS at conferences and meetings, including with policymakers.


Undergraduate degree and prior experience with research writing required. Advanced degree (especially in economics) or experience in research and writing on economics a plus but not required. Proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel required.

Must be diligent, self-directing, organized, able to meet deadlines, able to collaborate well with others, willing to edit colleagues’ work and be edited in turn.

The ideal candidate will write and edit with clarity, precision, and flair; attend to details and maintain a professional tone in correspondence; display good organizational and research skills, creativity, and initiative; maintain excellent research records; and align with NAS’s mission.

This job is based in our Manhattan headquarters, but requires some travel for research. Residence in New York City and the surrounding area preferred. Strong candidates outside New York City may be able to work remotely several days per week.

Salary and Timeline

This is an 18-month position. An outstanding research associate may be extended an invitation to become full-time, permanent staff.

Salary: Commensurate with qualifications; approximately $50,000 with benefits

How to Apply

Applicants should send a cover letter, two writing samples, resume, and list of 2-3 professional references to David Randall at [email protected].

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