Rising College Costs due to Administrative Bloat

From Investors Business Daily:

An IBD analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from 1989-2009 the number of administrative personnel at four- and two-year institutions grew 84%, from about 543,000 to over 1 million.
By contrast, the number of faculty increased 75%, from 824,000 to 1.4 million, while student enrollment grew 51%, from 13.5 million to 20.4 million.
The disparity was worse at public universities and colleges, where personnel in administration rose 71%, faculty 58% and student enrollment 40%. Private schools also saw administration and faculty growing faster than student enrollment, although faculties slightly outpaced administration increases.

Nifty graph here! More:

Administrative personnel are employees who are not engaged in instruction and research. The jobs range from university president and provost to accountants, social workers, computer analysts and music directors.
One reason administration at public institutions has grown faster may be that bureaucracies tend to expand their staff and programs over time, regardless of need.
“The increase has a lot to do with all the money these institutions pull in from third parties, like state funds and student financial aid,” said Daniel Bennett, a research fellow at the conservative Center for College Affordability & Productivity. “They’re using it to grow their staff rather than on students.”

The Cranky Professor adds his first-hand two cents:

What’s gone up is staff….And by “staff” I don’t mean “departmental secretaries.”…What we mean are student services. And the people who defend this growth, almost all of whom are self-interested members of the student services staff, explain that we HAVE to grow here because students now expect these services.
I suppose they’re right. Advertise a full service nanny-system and you will get parents and students interested in a 4 to 6 year extension of the nursery.
Perhaps it is the only way to run a college nowadays. I am skeptical. I’m not skeptical about the quality of our support staff – I’m sure they’re as excellent and hard-working as the faculty and secretarial staff. But the trend lines are undeniable — that’s where the growth in full-time, benefit eligible appointments is. Faculty have grown too, but as we know from all too many articles, that growth is not in the tenurable category.

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Bucket Chick
Bucket Chick
12 years ago

Meanwhile, this all trickles down to tuition, which translates into huge student loans…

12 years ago

Yep, this is all due to colleges needing to sell themselves to the best students who have the money to meet the tuitions. This is why colleges are building all new dorms, exercise facilities, new student unions, etc. Along with that is the need to support all of that new infrastructure. Plus, at some universities, with the newest technology, some of the faculty need more support with the changing IT world.

12 years ago

Something interesting I’ve noticed is how lawsuit-averse educational institutions have become. All you have to do is raise the possibility of getting sued and you’ll get whatever you ask for. Nobody is asking ‘what’s the realistic likelihood of getting sued for that vs. the cost of what you’re asking for’.
I recall a problem with Microsoft Windows a few years ago that required ‘all hands on deck’ to go around and patch computers. Basically, a single file needed to be distributed to each machine. The file was made publicly available by Microsoft. Someone interpreted the license for the file as preventing ‘distribution’, so instead of burning the file to CD and carrying it around, we had to download it individually to each computer, which takes about ten times as long. Would Microsoft realistically come and -sue- an institution for internally distributing a much-needed and freely-available security patch? Of course not, but all someone had to do was raise the issue and my job got a lot harder.
Also, availability of student loans to everyone regardless of the merit of the student, the quality of the institution, or the economic need for people in the particular field of study has led to schools being able to spend as much as they want, passing the buck to students (and to taxpayers if they default). For markets to actually work, the players involved need to be exposed to market forces like supply and demand; the federal government shouldn’t be loaning average twentysomethings $60K to study 17th Century English Literature.

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