Admin Bloat

In 1976, for every 1,000 full-time students, there were 42 professional administrative staff members, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2008, the most recent year available, there were 84. At the same time, the number of full-time faculty members for every 1,000 students has declined, from 65 to 55, due to the greater use of adjuncts and teaching assistants.

While fewer undergraduates are being taught by full-time professors, the number of administrators keeps growing.

Based on a new book by Andrew Hacker,a professor of sociology at Queens College has written a new book  “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It.”

NY Times

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  1. Gerald Barnett #

    It may be that the figures for administrative staff growth reflect the expansion of research management and compliance obligations. This especially as more universities expanded their research efforts. Thus, the ratio of admin to students would not really mean much. Admin per research dollar perhaps. Also, one might look at the expansion of development officers. When I counted last year, there were over 300. I wonder how many there were in 1976. If there’s expansion there, it would track the development of endowment funds, following the Harvard/Yale model.

  2. theaveeditor #

    Obviously I am skeptical. During my time here, it has seemed to me that admin has grown much faster than the rest of the enterprise.

    So .. maybe all this anecdotal stuff is not convincing but wouldn’t be better to have some real data?

    BTW, last time I looked at the UW budget there has been no increase in the proportion of operating costs coming from the endowment. I really wonder whether the admin claims are hyped or, perhaps, reflect purposed gifts that may even increase the operational costs of the UW?

  3. Gerald Barnett #

    Well, it is a recurrent theme: there are no data. The universities are not forthcoming with financial data that represent a clear accounting of programs such that anyone could use the information for planning anything.

    Cross subsidies to research and administration are hidden. Students (along with the public and the faculty) and are led to believe that tuition covers only a portion of their instructional costs, when it appears that tuition covers the cost of instruction, and more–it covers the costs of administrators not directly related to instruction. We can see this clearly by running the numbers (as Charles Schwartz has done for UC). It is also indirectly apparent that when tuition goes up by nearly 30%, instructional services of all sorts, *go down*. That would mean the money is *going elsewhere*.

    Tuition is covering research and administrative shortfalls. And humanities and arts tuition most of all. Again, I’ve seen the numbers in the UC system. UW cannot be much different.

    UW makes a great deal about how much money it brings in for research, but it never reports the cost of bringing that money in–it appears that UW loses millions on the overall research enterprise–it costs more money to get the research dollars and spend those dollars and account for those dollars and comply with all the regulations that go with those dollars and audit compliance and train for passing the audits and dealing with legal issues of compliance and having committees to advise people on all of these matters.

    When the state was subsidizing research, it was a good thing. UW didn’t have to report how much it was losing on research because a lot of that research money was spent in-state. It was something that the state could see as a good thing. But times have changed. The state is fine with UW bringing in all that research funding, but it has pulled a lot of its subsidy for it. Better for the state government. Disaster for UW finances.

    That has left administrators with a dilemma: should they come clean on the real costs of research and research administration, and perhaps scale back, or reform their management of F&A, or get cost effective on compliance matters? Or should they go raiding other sources of funding and keep things as they are? Obviously, they have chosen the latter, figuring that driving families deeper into debt for their education is a better thing, socially, than administrators making something of their responsibilities.

    It would make sense if the public got the message without even knowing why.

    First, the wrong one put out by administrators: 1) the cuts won’t hurt instructional quality (but they do, and they should be directed at research and admin not instruction, not “across the board”); 2) UW makes a lot of money for research and so is important (but it loses millions to do this, so it is poorer not floating in bucks); and 3) the state should let UW set its tuition (meaning, force students into debt–essentially an attack on the middle class students who are not the poster children for the university, not the ones receiving the serious financial aid).

    Second, the upshot: UW doesn’t need public help, can do the same with less (because excellence has not been affected it claims, even with huge state cuts in funding), and the university believes that degrees are a private credentialing to be bought and not a public service essential to a literate, engaged democracy.

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