The most interesting and underreported line to me in Hillary Clinton's college loan speech yesterday was this one: "I want to make sure that colleges spend federal dollars on things that benefit students, like teaching and research, not marketing campaigns or big salaries for administrators."
Whether Mrs. Clinton would actually follow through on this, and how, is another question. She and her husband have collected some speaking fees from colleges and universities for engagements that last a few hours — fees that dwarf what many administrators earn in a year. And certainly, the ranks of Democratic policy advisers are full of people who work as university administrators when the Republicans control the White House — Cheryl Mills, Jack Lew, Lawrence Summers, David Ellwood. (There are some Republicans who do this, too, including Glenn Hubbard and Condoleezza Rice.)
I guess I can see why this is a Democratic issue because Democrats seem to like when the government tells private institutions that they are paying their executives too much. The Democratic politicians think they know better than the market or a board how to set compensation. On the other hand, I can see it as a Republican issue, too, because Republicans like to portray the overwhelmingly left-leaning higher-education sector as bloated and extravagant, and because Republicans like to appear to be thrifty custodians of taxpayer funds. So the question is, why has Hillary Clinton beat the Republican presidential contenders to the punch in seizing on this issue? It would be nice to see some journalist gather reactions from the Republican presidential candidates about whether they agree with Mrs. Clinton that publicly funded colleges are spending too much on big salaries for administrators. They aren't going to win any Pulitzer Prizes from Columbia, where President Lee Bollinger was paid a reported $3.3 million in 2012.