Last week, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a report entitled “What’s Happening Off the Field: A Report on Higher Education in the Big 12.” It’s a thorough look at academic costs and spending in the conference, and while the overall results for the big three in Texas are troubling, Texas A&M University has made progress in one key area: reduction of administrative costs.

Studies show that Texas voters want to see cost cutting in higher education, with administrative overhead first in line for pruning. In an economy where fiscal responsibility needs to be the highest priority, Texas Tech University’s administrative costs have more than doubled since 2003, while the University of Texas at Austin has seen its administrative costs rise 17 percent. Texas A&M, by contrast, has reduced its administrative overhead by 2.9 percent.

Texas A&M deserves praise for its effort, and the rest of Texas’ public universities should follow suit. But can these universities realistically expect to do better? Absolutely. Iowa State University has managed to drop its administrative costs almost 20 percent since 2003, while the University of Missouri’s are nearly 40 percent lower.

This should not be read as an indictment of UT or Texas Tech. Both are fine institutions, and Tech has done a tremendous job of keeping its education affordable relative to A&M and UT. But it appears these schools should be looking to A&M-and to Missouri and ISU as well-as exemplars of institutions willing to trim their administrations down to size.

– James Golsan