This weekend the Wall Street Journal had a front page piece detailing how administrative bloat in higher education is causing costs to spiral higher. The piece carefully dissects hiring patterns at the University of Minnesota to illustrate their general conclusion that:
Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It’s part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.
This conclusion is not new, but it is great to see it getting the attention it deserves. As regular readers of JPGB will remember, Brian Kisida, Jonathan Mills, and I released a report on administrative bloat at the nation’s 200 leading research universities. That report elicited a tizzy fit from Arizona State University President Michael Crow, including a letter to the chancellor of my university accusing me of academic fraud. University leaders who should be the guardians of academic freedom are too often its greatest oppressors.
But the obvious facts about administrative bloat cannot be suppressed. Johns Hopkins professor Benjamin Ginsberg recently published an excellent book on the topic. And despite a lousy attempt by the professional association of State Higher Education Officers to spin the data, a subsequent analysis by the Pope Center successfully replicated our results and confirmed out conclusions.
And now we have a front page article in the Wall Street Journal reporting the same thing. Michael Crow might try writing an angry letter to the editor but university leaders won’t be able to shut this story down. The good university leaders are already taking steps to reign in runaway non-instructional, non-research costs. See for example Erskine Bowles efforts at the University of North Carolina or the new leadership at the University of Minnesota. The bad university leaders will bluster, brow beat, and continue to expand the mission of universities beyond their core missions of teaching and research.