Pushing Back on Vanderbilt's Compliance Cost Claims

July 23, 2015

In February officials from Vanderbilt University said the annual cost of federal regulation for the university is $150 million, or 11 percent of its total budget. Those numbers figured prominently in an American Council on Education report that argued against overly burdensome federal regulations. Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican and chair of the Senate's education committee, also has cited Vanderbilt's $150 million figure in his push to eliminate red tape.

However, as The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday, that $150 million includes costs that are not related to the federal regulations in question. The Chronicle, citing some numbers from The Hechinger Report, said $117 million of Vanderbilt's cited regulatory costs were associated with the university's substantial research operation. And, as The Chronicle reported, the federal government reimbursed Vanderbilt for $20-30 million of those research costs. The university also counted $6 million in accreditation activities that had little to do with federal regulation toward its eye-catching compliance figure.

Vanderbilt said it plans to release more information about its federal regulatory costs.

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