Administrative Bloat


Administrative Bloat and the Demise of the Faculty

In my previous post, I highlighted the exploitation of adjunct and other contingent faculty members in the context of the dramatic decline in the number of tenured and tenure-track positions across the country. Contingent faculty serve on a semester by semester, or year by year, basis and literally at the whim of their academic divisions. Because they can be replaced easily (unlike tenured faculty who are much harder to dislodge), they are largely unable to meaningfully resist the very administrative prerogatives that are responsible for their marginalization and that of the faculty more generally (in terms of institutional governance, control over the curriculum, and salary equity, for instance).

I am unsure of how many tenured and tenure-track faculty members realize it, but allowing campus administration to grow at the expense of faculty ultimately results in their own de-professionalization. Among the symptoms of this de-professionalization are the relegation of faculty to the status of knowledge workers (the new proletariat) overseen by their much better paid overlords, most of whom do not teach.

So, how much has administration grown in academia over the past decade or more at the expense of the faculty and the students whom they teach? Consider this disturbing summary from the conservative Goldwater Institute on administrative bloat:

“Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent. Arizona State University, for example, increased the number of administrators per 100 students by 94 percent during this period while actually reducing the number of employees engaged in instruction, research and service by 2 percent. Nearly half of all full-time employees at Arizona State University are administrators.”

More recently, The Platte Institute for Economic Research reported that nationally “American universities have an average of 17.34 full-time-equivalent staff, but only 6.21 full-time-equivalent faculty, per 100 full-time-equivalent students.” In other words, administrators now outnumber full-time faculty on American campuses across the country by more than 2-to-1 (keep in mind that these figures do not include the ratio of tenured and tenure-track faculty to 100 full-time students).

A 2012 study of 137 public universities from 1987 through 2008 by two professors of economics concluded that the most cost-effective ratio of _tenured and tenure-track faculty to administrators_ is 3-to-1 (currently these numbers are inverted at more than 1-to-2). The authors found that this bloat of administrators is what accounts for rising costs of higher education. They note that the hiring of adjunct faculty at low wages is used to off-set higher administrative salaries. Essentially, these administrators are balancing the books on the backs of the faculty, and at the expense of students, who should demand more tenured faculty members and less administrative bloat. Remember, that overall average pay reported by adjunct professors is just $2,987 per three-credit course.

How large is the disparity in terms of remuneration between administration and faculty? According to the 2012-2013 CUPA-HR Salary Surveys, the average pay for a CEO of a single institution is $274,300, a Dean of Arts and Humanities pulls in $145,356, while the Dean of Business averages a cool $169,428, the budget officer makes $108,269, and the Chief IT Security Administrator brings home $99,425. Then there are all of the administrative support positions for the highly paid administrators listed above: the average Associate Provost enjoys an annual salary of $123,146 (there are usually several of these individuals at a university), while the Assistant/Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities makes $100,492 and of Business $131,425.

Demand more tenure-track appointments at your college or university! Make the choice to attend an institution that invests in you by investing in the faculty (and not administrative salaries)!


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