Students are forced to pay ever increasing tuition costs, and with a tight job market, their hard-earned degrees offer no guarantee of financial success.

We recently took a look at the salaries of Ivy League administrators, which is part of the reason for the troubles at America’s institutions of learning.  Analyzing another aspect of the “Higher Education Bubble“, Dartbolog’s Joseph Asch does an intriguing comparison of skill versus pay between a private sector job and one at a university.

Let’s poke our heads outside the Dartmouth bubble for a change, shall we, and look at the local job market. One of the Upper Valley’s most generous employers is the local division of multinational FujiFilm Dimatix, located at 101 Etna Road in Lebanon — a 10-minute drive from the Green. This producer of cutting edge heads for high-volume printers is currently looking for cleanroom technicians to work the second shift. Here are the requirements for the job….

JOB REQUIREMENTS QUALIFICATIONS: To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential job function satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.  REQUIRED: High school degree or equivalent and 0-1 year of related experience.

Basic computer skills including the use of standard office software, including Word, Excel and Outlook., etc.

  •  Salary: $12.35/hour
  • Pension Contribution: 0%
  • Vacations and Medical: Generous

In short, a semi-skilled production job. Not the top of the ladder in manufacturing, but I think that we can agree that this worker needs to have a higher skill level than a cook helper at Dartmouth.

Now take a look at what the College pays a cook helper under the new union contract. Note: the position does not require a high school degree.

  • Salary: $16.78/hour (includes 2012 and 2013 raises of 3% each year)
  • Pension Contribution: 10% — $1.68/hour (if over 35 years of age)
  • Vacations and Medical: More Than Generous

…If you assume that this differential is applicable to all of the College’s 520 unionized workers (though it is probably higher for better paid workers), the wage premium that Dartmouth pays out each year just to its unionized workers is approximately $7.4 million more than what Fujifilm would pay for labor. This figure does not include the cost of a plusher health insurance package (for example, Dartmouth provides eight free counseling sessions to all employees each year, etc.) and longer vacations.

Now extrapolate that out to all of the College’s 3,200 non-faculty employees.

This information begs the question as to why students would pay thousands of dollars to a university for a degree, when there is obviously more profit in being a cook for that same institution.