I’m here to cooperate with you a hundred percent.

Every few years it seems the Republican-dominated state legislature takes a swipe at the Montana University System. This year is no exception, with Brian Schweitzer joining in the fray. Either the universities get 3% more or tuition will have to go up. Predictably, there are legislators who suggest that universities must learn to live within their means. Before they suggest paying faculty and staff less, perhaps they could focus on some of the other significant costs of a modern university.

Let’s start with the highest paid employee. That would probably be the football coach. Pete Carroll, head football coach at University of Southern California has a total compensation of $4, 415, 714. Perhaps we could encourage the students to compete in their sports on local fields and gymnasiums rather than college-owned facilties? Along with the athletic program, we could suggest the performing arts also utilize community venues rather than university subsidized theatres and centers.

Students could also live off-campus, park off-campus, and eat off-campus. That would free up a lot of the buildings for classrooms, wouldn’t it? Heck, we could stop building new buildings and utilize existing infrastructure. That would probably reduce the debt load of the universities, too.

But, I doubt students would give up their food courts, endless buffets, coffee huts, and marketplaces. They need to have seven selections to choose from for dinner and their locally-grown, organic salads, don’t they? Along with their fast broadband service in the dorms, the wifi system in the library, and the computer help desk.

Universities could also cut back on recruiting students. All those glossy brochures that get sent to high school students starting in year 8 could probably be put on hold, along with the recruiters that travel the region, visiting high schools, and answering endless rounds of questions. The University could stop advertising during NCAA tournaments, touting the excellence of living and playing for four years in western and central Montana. That would save a chunk of change. As would getting rid of the career counseling services and the health care facilities provided on-campus.

And, perhaps the biggest boondoggle of them all would be to get rid of all the expensive faculty. You know, the ones who bring in millions of dollars of research grants and contracts (largely generating their own pay and more than covering the cost of research). They’re the ones who don’t have time to be teaching four or five classes a semester. They need to go, since they are a distraction from the essential function of a modern university, right?

And the most expensive faculty of all? Well, although Janine Basinger of Wesleyan University (a reknowned film professor) makes $250, 000, she’s not the problem. Medical schools are. The highest paid professor in the country is David N. Silvers, professor of dermatology at Columbia University. He gets $4,332,759! And, guess what the legislature is proposing for the Montana University System? A medical program!

Perhaps we should just leave it to the professionals to run our university system? In doing so, we might continue to provide the state, the students, and the local community all of the benefits of the world’s best higher education system.

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