Administrative Bloat and Higher Education Bubble
The post below originally appeared in January, and I feature it again today because it highlights one of the reasons that the higher education bubble might be unsustainable: Much of the increased cost of college tuition has gone to fuel an expansion in college administrators, what some have called "administrative bloat" or even "administrative blight."
"Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support. There is no stronger trigger for rising costs at public universities and colleges than declining state support."
According to the Washington Post, "President Barack Obama will announce a plan to shift some federal dollars away from colleges and universities that don’t control tuition costs and new competitions in higher education to encourage efficiency as part of an effort to contain soaring college costs. Obama will spell out his plans Friday at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor."
One issue that will probably not receive a lot of attention today from either President Obama or President Coleman is the contribution of rising administrative positions and salaries to the rising cost of college tuition. For example:
1. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education (also available from IPEDS), the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor has 53% more full-time "administrators and professionals" (9,652) than full-time faculty (6,305), or a ratio of 1.53 administrative and professional positions for every full-time faculty member. Couldn't those administrative/professional expenses have something to do with rising tuition?
2. In a front page article on March 27, 2011, the Detroit Free Press reported that:
"Michigan public 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."
3. From this Detroit Free Press database that accompanied the article above, administrative salaries at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor increased by almost 27% in the five-year period between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, compared to an 18.2% increase in faculty pay during the same period.
4. From a related March 13, 2011 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."
5. It's not just Michigan universities that have added administrators, it's a national phenomenon, here's a story from a few years ago about the growth in administrative positions in the University of North Carolina system.
Update 1: According to IPEDS data from the U.S. Department of Education, here are the headcounts for the Univeristy of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2010 (most recent year available):
Full Time Faculty: 5,693
Full Time Executive/Managerial: 1,711
Full Time Professionals: 6,772
Total Executive/Managerial/Professional: 8,483
Therefore, in 2010, there were 49% more full-time administrative/professional staff than full-time faculty.
Update 2: Examples of positions in the Executive/Managerial category include: Deans (including Associates and Assistants), Program Directors, Office Managers, Supervisors, Registrar, Provost, President, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellors, etc.
Positions in the Professional category include Coordinators, Trainers, Graphic Artist, Program Manager, Analyst, Benefits Representative, Accountant, Associate Librarian, Financial Aid Administrator, Major Gifts Officer, Counselor, etc.