Sunday, March 27, 2011

Administrative Bloat in Michigan Public Universities

From a front page story in today's Detroit Free Press, "Amid Tougher Times, Spending on Payroll Soars at Michigan Universities":

"Michigan universities increased their spending on administrative positions by nearly 30% on average in the last five years, even as university leaders say they've slashed expenses to keep college affordable for families. The number of administrative jobs grew 19% over that period at the state's public universities, according to data submitted by the schools to the state budget office. 

The increases took place from the 2005-06 school year through 2009-10 -- a period in which both student enrollment and state funding of universities remained about the same, state data show. The higher administrative costs were slightly exceeded by tuition hikes over this period."

From a related earlier story in the Flint Journal:

"The University of Michigan-Flint’s administrative ranks has grown the fastest among the 15 public universities in the state, according to figures from the Michigan Higher Education Institutional Data Inventory released earlier this year. The data showed that the percentage growth in full time administrative and professional staff positions swelled 74 percent between 2005 and 2009, although the percent of administrative positions on campus remains average compared to other universities.

As the number of deans, associate deans and program directors grew at the Flint campus over the last five years, so have administrative paychecks. Six-figure salaries more than doubled on campus since 2006, according to the newest faculty and staff salary information recently released by UM. Nearly 50 of the roughly 1,000 employees made $100,000 or more at UM-Flint, compared to about 20 four years earlier."

24 Comments:

At 3/28/2011 5:39 AM, Blogger cluemeister said...

Parents, quit complaining and take out bigger student loans!

 
At 3/28/2011 8:00 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Meanwhile, Michigan's population declined by .6% between 2000 and 2010.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/default.htm

 
At 3/28/2011 8:35 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I wonder how the six-figure salaries at universities compare to other places of employment when comparing educational attainment using a metric such as percentage of employees with advanced degrees (Ph.D. and master degrees). Sure, $100,000 is a lot of money, but much less than that would negate the principle of an education premium.

I realize pay is just one of the points of the article with the other one being the numbers of administration jobs compared to teaching jobs. Still, I wonder if complaining and focusing about how much others make is just a smokescreen to keep people from thinking about their own stagnant wages.

 
At 3/28/2011 9:11 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Walt,

This is more about bloat than pay. Time to axe the dead weight and redundancies. The current university system is obsolete in the age of the internet.

 
At 3/28/2011 9:49 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Paul,

I teach both online and onground classes and design the curriculum and Websites for both. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both systems. I have a feeling some of my online students never leave their houses and go out into the real world to obtain socialization and people skills, but they do tend to have a huge technological edge over some of my onground students who do not even know how to use email. I see the most value in a hybrid system that requires a mix of computer and classroom knowledge delivery.

 
At 3/28/2011 10:02 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Public agencies, from the Defense Department to HUD, to universities and the Los Angeles Police Department, specialize in bloat.

Taxpayers continually get less for their dollars.

 
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At 3/28/2011 6:45 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Wow, Walt, you teach "socialization and people skills" during your lectures? That must be one special lecture. ;) That socialization argument for in-person teaching is such a canard, as 99% of the class time is spent staring at a blackboard or lecturer. The truth is that online learning will allow for much more socializing because it won't waste your time with all the worthless subjects taught in most in-person curricula these days, so you'll be free to spend much more of your time on facebook planning social events with your friends, :) if you choose to.

 
At 3/29/2011 5:48 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewel,

You don't teach socialization skills. That's my point. You have to get out there to get them, and too many people don't anymore.

 
At 3/29/2011 7:02 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, OK, so social skills aren't explicitly taught, in that case what makes you think online learners won't socialize and pick them up anyway? People don't get out and socialize anymore? That's all kids ever want to do and with the surfeit of social networking tech these days, if anything, there's far too much socialization. If anything, what kids need is some time to spend alone and reflect, but you won't catch me calling for govt-mandated quiet time. ;) While I agree that socializing has some limited benefits, the fact that people use that as a reason for in-person schooling is just crazy to me.

 
At 3/29/2011 7:03 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

When I was in high school, the only time spent interacting with others was recess and the occasional lab project, like doing stuff with the bunsen burner in chemistry class. The rest of the time was spent in isolated activity, staring at teachers lecturing at blackboards or taking tests. However, because so much of the current curriculum is just plain useless, I assert that online learning will leave kids with much more time to socialize, because it won't cram all the useless subjects down their throat that they're forced to sit through today. Once people have to use such marginal arguments like "socialization" to justify in-person schooling, which isn't even an explicit goal of education anyway, you know that they have no argument to make and are just arguing based on tradition.

 
At 3/29/2011 9:23 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Sprewell: "Once people have to use such marginal arguments like "socialization" to justify in-person schooling, which isn't even an explicit goal of education anyway, you know that they have no argument to make and are just arguing based on tradition."

So how do you ask questions if there isn't anybody there?

 
At 3/29/2011 9:53 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

I think online is great for some types of training but it lacks some of the educational aspects of learning. I don't think computer delivery can take the place of face-to-face learning without losing value.

A lot of education is not explicit. It's very, very difficult to express context and tone online unless you are an extremely extraordinary communicator, and you can spend/waste a huge amount of time clearing up miscommunications. When you are clearing up the junk, all teaching and learning stops.

I’m not an expert, but I have been teaching part-time in the classroom for almost 30 years off-and-on and online since 2006. Classroom management online can be a bitch if you don’t dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s. You get killed on your mistakes before you can correct them, and anybody who does not make mistakes is not teaching.

 
At 3/29/2011 9:37 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

geoih, I don't see the connection between my quote about socialization and your question about who takes the questions. You simply take the questions online. First of all, in my experience with in-person K-12 and college, less than 1% of the time is spent answering questions: there are just too many students to do that. And what you can do online is what most companies do for customer support today, build up a written list of frequently asked questions and answers for the common ones and direct people to email or video-conferencing for rare questions. This is a much more efficient way to impart knowledge.

Walt, more weak arguments, "context and tone?" I'd love to hear a single specific example where that actually happened. Since most live lectures today have no interactivity, we can just tape the good lecturers, for the few people that learn better through a lecture, and they can watch the videos anytime. Why would you get killed on your mistakes more or earlier online and why would that be a bad thing?

 
At 3/29/2011 9:41 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

The fact is that we should have moved away from the lecturer model a long time ago. The only reason we ever had lecturers a hundred years ago is that books were expensive back then, so one "teacher" had to read the book then broadcast the lesson in a classroom to the textbook-less students. Once books became affordable enough that everybody had a copy 50 years ago, we should have moved to a model where students read assigned chapters on their own and wrote down whatever questions they had, then the teacher could've gone over the most common questions in class. Yet nobody did this in the ensuing decades, a clear sign of the deep stupidity of most teachers. Now that online learning is about to take off, we can finally make that transition, only we can almost completely cut the "teacher" out of the mix, by using FAQs for common questions and only using live assistance for the really rare question.

 
At 3/29/2011 9:41 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Of course, rich kids might still pay for further live assistance, but everybody else, and especially poor kids, won't be forced to pay for teachers that still operate according to antiquated, 19th-century methods. This will revolutionize learning and be so much more efficient that it will destroy the current "education" market, putting most current "educators" out of work. I look forward to this inevitable outcome with relish. :)

 
At 3/30/2011 6:16 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

People don't process learning the same way so it is impossible to have a set of frequently asked questions prepared that eliminates questions. What seems obvious to me or you can completely stops a student from learning. Who knows why a student would obsess over how a "+" sign came to be instead of just learning that 2 + 2 = 4? The good teachers deal with stuff like that instead of just blowing the students off and teaching to the top of the class.

It takes a highly motivated student to perform well in an online class. A lot of students are not highly motivated. Do we just write them off? I said yes when I first started teaching, but many students who came around and excelled changed my mind about that. I usually have to have those students in front of me to make that happen. It's difficult to yell and smile at the same time in writing!! :)

Sprewell, that you think context and tone are unimportant informs me that you have never spent much time teaching in a classroom or online. You have to be able to read the students and adjust on the fly if your message is not getting through. Every class of students has a different dynamic. Again, anyone can teach to the top students in the class, they will self teach, but the challenge is taking the student who will receive a "D" or "E" and getting them to a "C".

I don't think most readers of Carpe Diem have ever been at the bottom of their class in anything, so comprehending how others think and learn can be foreign to them. Successful teachers need to learn that foreign language. Maybe we should, too.

 
At 3/30/2011 7:33 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, I agree that people don't all learn the same way, which is why it is ridiculous to force the current lecture model on them. With online learning, some will watch recorded lectures, some will listen to podcasts, some will view animated videos, many will choose a mix of all of the above. Nobody said that a FAQ would eliminate questions, I clearly said the rare questions would be forwarded to email or video conferencing. The point is that just like with customer support, you handle the common cases with written answers and only pull in the more expensive live help for the rare case. Because of the way these FAQs can be queried with search functionality these days, you can build giant databases of common questions, including the "+" symbol one that you raised, many of which could never be in the textbook in order to save pages. I don't know what fantasy classes you attended where "good teachers" had all the time to answer such questions though. The lecture model never gave them much time to answer questions in the institutions I attended.

 
At 3/30/2011 7:37 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

I don't see why it is any more motivating to sit in silence listening to a lecture than it is to go through online course material. Like I said before, because one can provide many forms of media online, I suspect online learners will be much more motivated. I agree that tutor interaction can help, that's why it's so important to save the tutor's valuable time for the rare questions, which can be delivered just as well through video conference. Yes, I have never spent time teaching, but if you think context and tone are an important part of most classrooms or that most teachers are constantly adjusting on the fly, I suggest you need to get out and observe other classrooms more. ;) Yes, I always did well in school and was able to get by without much instruction: in fact, I skipped most lectures in college. But the fact that I didn't need the lectures doesn't mean they provided any value to anyone else, or that they couldn't be replaced with recordings supplemented with some online tutoring.

 
At 3/30/2011 7:38 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

I agree that people learn in many different ways, but I suggest to you that lecturing is not a very good way, particularly because most lecturers are incapable of doing the kind of improvisation you seem to imply that most of them do. My engineering professors usually just read the book to us, which is why I didn't bother going to most of their lectures. The rest of the teachers in HS/college weren't much better. The rare ones who were good weren't so because they could answer questions usually, but because they had perfected their delivery of the material, which could easily be recorded and put online.

 
At 3/30/2011 8:29 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

You can't perfect the delivery of the material because every class and every day is different. I lead the class in the general area I want it to go, but I don't lecture. I talk about 50% of the time and the students talk about 50% of the time most days.

I agree that technology should be deeply integrated into learning, but I doubt it can ever completely eliminate face-to-face learning without losing considerable value. People interaction is too important in everyday living and working to write it off in the learning process.

 
At 3/30/2011 9:06 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, perhaps you are doing a better job than most of your peers, but students talking 50% of the time is highly unusual from what I have seen and heard. While there may be some tailoring of lectures going on, there's no reason the same can't be done for recorded lectures too, by presenting different video segments to each student based on their particular aptitude. Recorded videos online will be much more tailored than any in-person environment could ever be. In any case, I suspect that whatever tailoring is going on today is minor. Nobody is denying the value of interaction, but most lectures today have no interaction either and I see no reason that video conferencing can't replace whatever interaction's necessary for online learning.

 
At 3/30/2011 9:46 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Sprewell,

I agree that technology should be used to the full extent that it is valued added. I don't think the teaching and learning process should eliminate any of the alternative or traditional delivery systems.

My students have my cell phone number, I answer my email at least twice daily, and everything I pass out in class is on Blackboard. I offer Web conferencing to my classroom and online students by appointment on my computer, too. My success depends on their success passing third-party certification and licensing tests every year.

 
At 3/30/2011 8:59 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Walt, I think the traditional delivery of everyone congregating in a classroom will largely be eliminated, because it just isn't cost-effective. To give you an example from the leading edge of the software world, while programmers at software companies still often work in a cubicle farm or at Microsoft you get your own office, software is written increasingly by distributed teams who only communicate through email and other electronic methods, particularly in the open source world. I write patches for software for which I wouldn't even recognize the face of any of the hundreds of other people who contribute to it, if I ever did happen to meet one of them on the street. I'm glad that you're using such a mix of methods, but I suggest that the only reason you cling to the traditional ones is tradition. What's happening on the leading edge of software will inevitably spill into every other information market, it's just a matter of time. :)

 

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