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Administrative, not faculty, salaries are driving rising tuition
March 6, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Administrator Hiring Drove 28% Boom in Higher-Ed Work Force, Report Says The report, "Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive: Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education," says that new administrative positions—particularly in student services—drove a 28-percent expansion of the higher-ed work force from 2000 to 2012...What’s more, the report says, the number of full-time faculty and staff members per professional or managerial administrator has declined 40 percent, to around 2.5 to 1. Full-time faculty members also lost ground to part-time instructors (who now compose half of the instructional staff at most types of colleges)...And the kicker: You can’t blame faculty salaries for the rise in tuition. Faculty salaries were "essentially flat" from 2000 to 2012, the report says. And "we didn't see the savings that we would have expected from the shift to part-time faculty," said Donna M. Desrochers, an author of the report.
posted by mediareport (88 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not mentioned is the fact that IT folks are all counted as "administration," as are support staff for faculty and students. Want tech in the classroom? You need support, design, and programmers.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:21 AM on March 6 [33 favorites]


I can grumble with the best of them about the increasing number of administrators and part-time faculty in higher ed, but, to be honest, it's nice to have administrators dedicated to things like making sure Blackboard works, or that students are getting the class advising they need from someone who does it full-time and can handle emergencies, or that someone is looking for students failing all their classes as their full-time job. The growth of part-time faculty is more worrying, but I wonder if the powers that be aren't anticipating the bubble popping and needing to fire a bunch of teachers in a hurry.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:23 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This hasn't been my experience in my neck of the woods... the Admin departments have been bled out for years because limiting the academic focus of the colleges and cutting programs are too hard to do politically and nobody has a vision anyway. I'm guessing that's just my area though.
posted by selfnoise at 7:25 AM on March 6


All the IT people I know in higher ed (full disclosure - I work as a sysadmin for a university) make substantially less than in the private sector* and work here because of better fringe benefits and a belief in the mission.

*You don't know what it's like out there. I've worked in the private sector; they expect results
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:26 AM on March 6 [20 favorites]


higher ed is the private sector though.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:27 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


more importantly, where does all the money go?!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:27 AM on March 6


Hang on a sec - when they talk about "administration," are they talking about things like "The Dean Of Diversity" or are they talking about, like, secretarial staff?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Inside Higher Ed: It's Not Faculty Salaries

USAToday: College hiring: Helping students or padding payrolls?

Spending grew fastest for jobs that involve direct contact with students, such as financial aid, counseling, student activities and health care...The analysis, which also documents a rise in part-time or temporary instructors alongside declines in full-time faculty hires, suggests that many of the new student-services jobs have taken over tasks that once fell to faculty, such as academic advising, career guidance and disciplinary actions...

The new analysis by the American Institutes for Research leaves open the question of whether the spending has gotten out of control.

"The shifting balance among these positions has played out steadily over time in favor of administrators, and it is unclear when a tipping point may be near," the report says. "Whether this administrative growth constitutes unnecessary 'bloat' or is justified as part of the complexities involved in running a modern-day university remains up for debate."

posted by mediareport at 7:28 AM on March 6


drove a 28-percent expansion of the higher-ed work force from 2000 to 2012

Also, thats a 2 percent annual growth rate.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:29 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]


No doubt, Pogo. I made $30k when I worked at a college; I make much more on the industry. It doesn't stop IT people being counted, counterintuitively, as admin.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:29 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The report in question [pdf]
posted by mediareport at 7:35 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Hang on a sec - when they talk about "administration," are they talking about things like "The Dean Of Diversity" or are they talking about, like, secretarial staff?

It varies from place to place, but most hourly workers are categorized as "staff" rather than administration. And about IT, at my institution, one of the big consistent complaints is that the administration has not increased tech support staff and IT personnel (or infrastructure) in a way that's remotely commensurate with the growth in technology.

Also, administrative hiring tends to be greatest at the top levels, in other words, the people who have the least amount of direct responsibility for the day-to-day operations, provision of learning and services to students, etc. At our joint, they are not hiring more advisors, counselors, program coordinators, or department-running folks -- many of those jobs are piled onto faculty. The hiring is in Associate Deans, Assistant Provosts, Under-Sub-Poobah of Marketing, etc.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:35 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


That is, piled onto faculty in addition to their other duties.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:36 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Any of my professor friends could have told you that. :\
posted by edheil at 7:38 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Remember this recent thread? Yeah, universities doing anything about that--or the broader trend of sexual assault/harassment on campus--requires adding additional administrative staff in the "student services" general area. It's hardly the only thing going on, but any move which tends to make universities more responsible for student safety and academic outcomes will invariably be met with additional staff to manage and mitigate that operational risk.

Fine catch-22 there.
posted by valkyryn at 7:40 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


FWIW, a growth area for a lot of .edu's is adding an online presence -- which takes an enormous amount of capital spend (on software & hardware) and staff expenses (on labor to convert course materials, train professors, and create new digital materials). These bodies will all go under the "administration" heading, I think, and many/most of them are new positions.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:45 AM on March 6


I had a clever consultant once tell me that society has an infinite appetite for three things: education, healthcare and entertainment. People don't buy just enough of these things. They spend on them until they run out of money.

It's all the result of a lot of bad policy and poorly aligned incentives. The system rewards huge scale for reasons other than typical economies of scale. In the case of healthcare it's to maximize your negotiating power with payers. At a university, it's bragging rights and providing a bunch of inessential services to students. That growth is stupendously expensive, but you can make up for it by bleeding the system. The payment model so opaque and indirect that no one can really put a price tag on what you offer.

The government/lenders hand out easy/"cheap" student loans. We have a mixed private/government payment model in healthcare where losses on government insurance are covered by private insurers. The cost is hidden from the consumer. So is the value of the goods purchased. No one really understands what a "good" education is, and in healthcare there's a negative correlation between outcomes and patient satisfaction.

If you're not competing on efficiency, you don't have a real incentive to drive down costs.
posted by pjaust at 7:45 AM on March 6 [8 favorites]


Hang on a sec - when they talk about "administration," are they talking about things like "The Dean Of Diversity" or are they talking about, like, secretarial staff?

Not so much Deans, who are usually drawn from faculty, but probably they're talking about Vice Provosts and Vice Presidents of XYZ and Executive Directors and people like that, I would think, who make 6-figure salaries, and there can be quite a lot of people at that level; also, many (most? it's gotten very competitive) university presidents make well into 7 figures these days. I would think there is also a drain from big-name "star" faculty as well as high-profile coaches at institutions that highly value athletic rankings.

The other big drain at a some schools I can think of is rampant capital construction (I live, ahem, in Ithaca NY). New and very expensive academic buildings and labs that tend to get partial initial donations from wealthy alums are going up constantly, but the school has to make up the rest of the costs to complete the project, and then pay to furnish and maintain the fancy new building for the rest of time.

Support staff (everything from front-line IT to "administrative assistants") make peanuts in comparison, at most universities, unless they stay there for a couple decades and gradually creep up the pay scale ladder to ever-better assistant jobs, in which case they can make comfortable middle-class salaries eventually.
posted by aught at 7:57 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


It's not just IT, if you are an admin. at a university you make significantly less than you do elsewhere. The only benefit might be that you get either free or reduced tuition (provided it's approved and you can fit it around your schedule) on classes, but that's not universal. TCU here in Fort Worth will educate your kids for free if you're a fulltime employee (provided they get accepted), but they'll pay you peanuts, so if your kids are young, it could be years of struggle before you realize the benefit (and your kids still have to pay fees/books etc., it's just tuition that's covered).
posted by emjaybee at 7:59 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


drove a 28-percent expansion of the higher-ed work force from 2000 to 2012

Also, thats a 2 percent annual growth rate.


Also, according to this

Undergraduate enrollment rose 37 percent between 2000 and 2010

So... yeah. Tuition is rising because there's more students and less funding. Period.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:09 AM on March 6 [6 favorites]


And if it's anything like my institution, there are a lot of student "fees" for unspecified expenses that are somehow not "tuition" and so not covered by the "free tuition" offer.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:10 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Hang on a sec - when they talk about "administration," are they talking about things like "The Dean Of Diversity" or are they talking about, like, secretarial staff?

The definitions they are working with are on Page 6 of the report (as mediareport linked to).
posted by Rock Steady at 8:10 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Support staff (everything from front-line IT to "administrative assistants") make peanuts in comparison, at most universities, unless they stay there for a couple decades and gradually creep up the pay scale ladder to ever-better assistant jobs, in which case they can make comfortable middle-class salaries eventually.
posted by aught

It's not just IT, if you are an admin. at a university you make significantly less than you do elsewhere. The only benefit might be that you get either free or reduced tuition (provided it's approved and you can fit it around your schedule) on classes, but that's not universal.
Posted by emjaybee


Yeah, that was my experience too, that clerical staff made jack-diddly at universities (even the temp rates suck). So reading that "administration" was a high salary thing sounded crazytalk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on March 6


emjaybee: "It's not just IT, if you are an admin. at a university you make significantly less than you do elsewhere."

My first job out of college was at my university's library. After a couple years, I moved, took the first random temp job I saw, and was making 50% more as a law firm temp doing data entry with no experience than I was doing significantly more sophisticated work at the library. Hell, I was even in a union at the library and the pay still stunk (admittedly, the benefits were better there, although maybe not so much as to be worth the massive pay cut).
posted by Copronymus at 8:12 AM on March 6


From Rock Steady's link:
Administrative staff
Technical, paraprofessional, clerical and secretarial workers count as "nonprofessional support staff".
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:13 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]


I definitely counted as "administration" when I was there, as a programmer/web guy/jack of all trades.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:19 AM on March 6



I can grumble with the best of them about the increasing number of administrators and part-time faculty in higher ed, but, to be honest, it's nice to have administrators dedicated to things like making sure Blackboard works, or that students are getting the class advising they need from someone who does it full-time and can handle emergencies, or that someone is looking for students failing all their classes as their full-time job. The growth of part-time faculty is more worrying, but I wonder if the powers that be aren't anticipating the bubble popping and needing to fire a bunch of teachers in a hurry.


It really, really worries me that a lot of people seem to think that secretaries, IT, the people who do the billing for the cafeteria, people who help students plan their course load, etc are "administrators". We are not "administrators" - that's title bloat designed to make our jobs sound more impressive, mostly (IMO) so that the people managing us sound better. Our salaries are flat too, or de facto declining as more and more healthcare costs are pushed onto us - and those of us who are unionized are seeing more and more attacks on our union, no doubt with an eye to gutting our pensions. "Admins" - by which we mean secretaries - are not the cause of the rise in costs. Around here, there are a lot fewer of us than there used to be, with far more people working split jobs - departments which used to have a full time secretary now have a half-time one, for instance. Faculty would, in general, love more of this kind of "admin" support, because it gets more and more difficult to do things like schedule seminars, run financial reports and so on due to staff shortages.
posted by Frowner at 8:20 AM on March 6 [10 favorites]


I definitely counted as "administration" when I was there, as a programmer/web guy/jack of all trades.

Well, as faculty, all I can say is broadswords in a pit.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:22 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


To be clear, this bloat is not driven by support staff, it is driven by management staff. There is a difference, and that difference is accounted for by this finding.

Universities got more top-heavy in the last decade.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:22 AM on March 6


It’s MOOAs, Not MOOCs, That Will Transform Higher Education
posted by mondo dentro at 8:23 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


to be honest, it's nice to have administrators dedicated to things like making sure Blackboard works,

I don't want to pick on you because I understand and sympathize with the point you're making but how about not even having crappy LMS's like blackboard in the first place?

I work in a large organization that has what you might call The Mercedes Problem. You want to do something, like drive to California, and the bureaucracy says "No, we can't do that because we can't afford a new S-Class." So how about a freaking Toyota Yaris or something? Organizations get stuck in this trap of trying to trying to make budgets fit what they want to do, freaking out if they don't, instead of saying "Okay, here's the budget, how can we optimize the benefit?"
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:23 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I don't want to pick on you because I understand and sympathize with the point you're making but how about not even having crappy LMS's like blackboard in the first place?

LOL I don't feel picked on in the slightest. It is definitely a "He finally learned to love Big Brother Blackboard" sort of thing.

If I had easy access to the university website, I would make a personal web page, except (1) my students would never see it (2) my students spent the first two years I worked here bugging me to put more stuff on Blackboard (3) I couldn't put student grades on the web without violate FERPA, whereas on Blackboard it's behind a login wall. IT actually tried to change CMSs my first year, to Moodle, but my senior colleagues freaked out at the possibility of having to learn a new CMS, so it died.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:31 AM on March 6


The fact that students can't discharge education loans in bankruptcy (in the US, since that's what we're talking about) distorts the financial incentives for educational institutions. I can't help but think that's related to increased administrative spending in some way.
posted by immlass at 8:39 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This is the most important sentence in the article:

The rise in tuition was probably driven more by the cost of benefits, the addition of nonfaculty positions, and, of course, declines in state support.

Cost of benefits means health care, which has been runaway in the past decade, which has been fed right into tuition. Before everyone jumps on this "nonfaculty hires cause tuition hikes" bandwagon, they need to take a very long hard look at what health care costs have done to contribute.

Addition of nonfaculty positions includes cheaper labor that universities and colleges are increasingly using to teach courses. So, yuck. Also probably related to increases in costs of benefits.

And declines in state support...this is mind boggling to me and I wish was a more prominently reported story. The University of Minnesota for example gets such a tiny fraction of their funding from the state that I have actually heard discussions about whether they should just privatize themselves to get around the scrutiny of being a public institution.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:39 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


To be clear, this bloat is not driven by support staff, it is driven by management staff. There is a difference, and that difference is accounted for by this finding.

That's actually not what the report says:
Growth in administrative jobs was widespread across higher education—but creating new professional positions, rather than executive and managerial positions, is what drove the increase.

Professional positions (for example, business analysts, human resources staff, and admissions staff) grew twice as fast as executive and managerial positions at public nonresearch institutions between 2000 and 2012, and outpaced enrollment growth. [my emphasis]
So unfortunately, "administration" is being used as a blanket term to cover both managerial/executive and professional support staff, but it is in the professional support where the most growth has occurred. That's why they talk about student services, etc.

Whether or not you consider this "bloat" is subjective.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:40 AM on March 6 [8 favorites]


It's a derail, but changing CMS/LMS's at a college is a non-trivial task. It took my college 1.5 years to do it (I co-chaired the school-wide committee) and that was a rush job. And frankly we probably only did it because we had to, our old LMS was no longer supported.

Switching to the new LMS required way more man-hours of work than simply mainting and limping-along with the old one would have. (It's also not clear to me that our current LMS is any less maintanence intense than the old one, and we're using CANVAS a newer, well-like LMS.)

Back on topic: As a professor, I tend to wish I had more support staff to work with. (It sucks! to do my own horribly amateurish video lectures. I would kill for an on-call video person.)
posted by oddman at 8:41 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


All of the people who think universities don't drive down costs like the private sector are delusional, and every time I collaborate with a corporate entity it reinforces this belief. I, remora-like, just submitted a proposal with a major DOD beltway bandit operation that will burn almost 2 million bucks in a year to do what I and a few collaborators would have done (admittedly in two or three times that much time) for about $100-200K per year. Lemmeesee... which type of organization should we focus on for cost containment first?

The problem of tuitions is not just about how universities control costs, and to view universities in isolation like that is doomed to be misleading, at best. The combined teaching, research, and economic missions expected from the modern university is one factor. The other is...(drumroll please)... neoliberal economics. Student indebtedness tracks perfectly with the brilliant policy of destroying publicly subsidized education, and then privatizing student loans on top of that. Mission accomplished, if by "mission" we mean pumping a trillion dollars out of the 99.9% and into the offshore accounts of a miniscule elite.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:44 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


As a professor, I tend to wish I had more support staff to work with.

Use your students: Find a way to make that stuff a part of the course and its a win-win; you get free labor and they learn something useful.
posted by Renoroc at 8:47 AM on March 6


>> I was there, as a programmer/web guy/jack of all trades.

> Well, as faculty, all I can say is broadswords in a pit.

--

> IT actually tried to change CMSs my first year, to Moodle, but my senior colleagues freaked out at the possibility of having to learn a new CMS, so it died.

Sounds like you're going need a lot of broadswords and a very large pit.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:48 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


a couple things, mondo dentro:

Universities are in the private sector, they are not in the public sector.

Student indebtedness also increases in institutions that are not state schools.

Student loans are moving towards being completely administered by the federal government, and have been moving in that direction for a while.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:49 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you're going need a lot of broadswords and a very large pit.

That would solve a lot of problems.

The increases in tuition are mostly due at public universities to the fact that state and federal funding has dried up. Private universities are fighting over federal funds, as well as donation money. Benefits cost more. Getting rid of full-time faculty with multiple responsibilities and replacing them with part-time teachers and full time support/advising staff doesn't really seem to affect cost, even though the point of doing it was to save money over having to pay full-time faculty. But as long as other sources of income continue to diminish, increases in tuition are going to be needed.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:53 AM on March 6


So unfortunately, "administration" is being used as a blanket term to cover both managerial/executive and professional support staff, but it is in the professional support where the most growth has occurred. That's why they talk about student services, etc.

The report is clear that this isn't the kind of support staff people are defending: it's not hourly work, it's not secretarial work. It's "professional support" in the sense that it's lawyers and psychometricians and HR decision-makers, not legal secretaries, data enterers, and HR clerks.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:54 AM on March 6


i totes feel sort of left out at my school 'cause it's the admin staff who celebrate each other's birthdays and know the drama about what's going on with so and so. because they're the full-timers.

actually I hate that shit, just give me some freakin' job security and we'll call it good
posted by angrycat at 8:59 AM on March 6


Universities are in the private sector, they are not in the public sector.

That's not catagorically true. For example, all employees of the UW system in Wisconsin are state (i.e. public) employees.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:59 AM on March 6 [6 favorites]


But it also includes computer administrators, counselors, librarians and health workers.

Also athletic staff, but I think we're having that fight in another thread.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:00 AM on March 6


Yeah, I'm definitely a public employee. I get my paycheck directly from the Commonwealth, signed by the state treasurer, I get health insurance through the state employee exchange, and I have to watch a two-hour video the state conflict-of-interest law every year.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:01 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Interesting, I stand corrected.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:03 AM on March 6


Universities are in the private sector, they are not in the public sector.

That's a really bizarre statement. Have you never heard of state universities?
posted by mediareport at 9:04 AM on March 6


On non-preview, ok.
posted by mediareport at 9:04 AM on March 6


The report is clear that this isn't the kind of support staff people are defending: it's not hourly work, it's not secretarial work. It's "professional support" in the sense that it's lawyers and psychometricians and HR decision-makers, not legal secretaries, data enterers, and HR clerks.

I was not saying it was hourly workers, and I was directly quoting the report. Elementary Penguin quoted the report's own definition of professional support staff here. My own experience at a lot of different higher ed institutions is that exactly who is hourly and who is salaried (professional) can vary. For example, at my last university, both of my department's "administrative support staff" were salaried employees, one with a BA and one with an MA. Their work was pretty varied, including managing the department's budget and expenditures, scheduling support, graduate admissions support, but also things like organizing department events and supervising student workers (who were hourly). Professional staff includes lawyers, as noted in the report, but might, depending on the institution, also include the entire HR staff.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:08 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


I strongly recommend that people read the actual report (linked above by mediareport). It really doesn't boil down to any of the more simplistic "see, I told you so" versions that are cropping up in discussion about it.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


But it also includes computer administrators, counselors, librarians and health workers.

Agreed. The point is that it is high-wage "professionals" rather than low-wage workers. The average salary of these folks is higher than it is for the average faculty member, because the average faculty member is untenured.

The median professional salary is $55,000 to $60,000. The median faculty salary is apparently trimodal: 60-100k for established faculty, 47k for full-time non-tenure, and 21k for adjuncts. Since the university has added a bunch of the last group of adjuncts who are paid like hourly workers, and a bunch of professionals who are paid like established faculty, I think it's fair to say that it has become top heavy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:13 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This is hardly a phenomenon limited to the US. There are currently 113 "senior management" positions listed on jobs.ac.uk, compared with about five academic postings in my own (hardly narrow) field. They have grandiose, vaguely bullshit sounding titles like "Enterprise Architect" and "Commercialization Executive" and are paid a good 30% higher than most faculty. There was a rather good article on this in The Guardian earlier this week.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:17 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Iowa State University is bucking the trend, hiring new faculty at the expense of administrators and support staff. Would be interesting to hear how that's playing out from any mefite ISU faculty members.
posted by hal incandenza at 9:18 AM on March 6


Since the university has added a bunch of the last group of adjuncts who are paid like hourly workers, and a bunch of professionals who are paid like established faculty, I think it's fair to say that it has become top heavy.

Ultimately, though, the report concludes that "higher benefits costs, rather than rising salaries, led to moderate increases in overall compensation costs." It would be interesting to see how higher ed costs might change in a world where we had single-payer health care.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:47 AM on March 6


Universities are in the private sector, they are not in the public sector.

OK. But this private/public sector distinction is at most a semantic error. I just was using language someone else used above. Universities are non-profits and not generally considered part of the business world. Academics hear constantly how they don't have to operate in the "real world", or how they need to run the university "like a business", or some other variant of dogma in the neoliberal to crony-capitalist continuum.

Student indebtedness also increases in institutions that are not state schools.

No doubt. Probably worse at the private universities/colleges, no? But I'm not seeing what that has to do with anything. We could subsidize tuition at any institution.

Student loans are moving towards being completely administered by the federal government, and have been moving in that direction for a while.

What's "for a while"? AFAIK, there is no vigorous move in this direction, just some political damage control. Financial institutions made (and make) a killing on student loans with free money they get from the Fed, and student indebtedness is now in excess of 1 trillion US--exceeding credit card debt for the first time ever.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:51 AM on March 6


And declines in state support...this is mind boggling to me and I wish was a more prominently reported story.

I teach at a community college in south Texas, and while I think it could be fairly said that we have more upper admin than we need, the lack of state support is far and away the most critical issue facing our budget. I don't have the exact numbers handy, but state funding has dropped from around half our budget to 25%, and is likely to decrease further. It will also soon be tied to student success rates. We will see how that plays out, but my concern is that colleges in well-off areas where students have been adequately prepared by their high schools are going to wind up with more funds compared to, well, my school, where at least half of our students are not ready for college work, but we take them and do the best we can. We also can't raise our tuition much without pricing out our poor students (most of them), or asking them to take on larger, burdensome debt. Moving state funding back to what it once was would make a huge difference, but that's not going to happen. Not in Texas, not any time soon.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:42 AM on March 6 [6 favorites]


Yeah, we have dramatically less state support, our univ. offers significantly less financial aid than other regional institutions, we're an economically depressed state in an economically depressed region in the midst of a multi-year global economic shitshow, and our president keeps sending memos telling us how faculty and programs and academic divisions are totally disappointing him by not constantly growing our student credit hour numbers over the past five years and having fewer four-year degree completions. Jesus Fucking Christ, it's a miracle enrollment has remained fairly steady. Going to school over six or seven years while working surely is a far smarter route than taking on an academic mortgage.

Every time someone says "SCH" to me as if that's some measure of learning or achieving an educational mission, I want to punch them in the face.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:53 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


And don't get me started on the harangues we receive about "marketing and recruitment." I'm sorry, but aggressively marketing degree programs to people who can't afford them right now is wrong.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:55 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


The report is clear that this isn't the kind of support staff people are defending: it's not hourly work, it's not secretarial work. It's "professional support" in the sense that it's lawyers and psychometricians and HR decision-makers, not legal secretaries, data enterers, and HR clerks.
I don't think that the growth in student services comes from highly-paid lawyers or HR decision-makers. It comes from people in housing, retention, financial aid, disability services, career services, the counseling center, student health, etc.: positions with direct student contact that aren't primarily academic in nature. There's also been a huge increase in academic advising staff, although we don't technically fall under the student services umbrella. People in those jobs aren't earning anything like six-figure salaries, but our salaries add up anyway, especially when you factor in benefits.

I'm obviously biased, because I have one of these jobs, but I think that students do benefit from the added support. Whether they benefit enough to justify the cost is, I think, an open question.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:12 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Part of the reason I left the (public) college where I taught and worked was the state budget... it just kept getting more and more ridiculous. Eventually, they came down with this thing where administrators were supposed to "volunteer" to take a 5% pay cut. That's when I discovered that, even as a peon making $30k, I was an "administrator." Great!

The President saw that my situation was ridiculous, and did some kind of magic so that my salary came out of two buckets instead of just the administration bucket, so I didn't have to take a pay cut... but I started looking for an industry position that night.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:26 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


The other big drain at a some schools I can think of is rampant capital construction (I live, ahem, in Ithaca NY). New and very expensive academic buildings and labs that tend to get partial initial donations from wealthy alums are going up constantly, but the school has to make up the rest of the costs to complete the project, and then pay to furnish and maintain the fancy new building for the rest of time.

If the buildings are being used for research, then probably much of the cost is being paid for by funders, including the U.S. federal government.

Here's how it usually works. Panels of expert researchers will recommend whether to fund a grant application based on the described research and the attached direct cost budget, which includes items like staff salaries and supplies. Then, if the grant is awarded, the funding agency will award an additional percentage in facilities and administrative ("F&A" or "indirect costs"). The F&A rate is determined, in part, by how much the university spends on depreciation, debt interest, and maintenance costs for these buildings. Since the F&A portion of the award is usually added on after important decisions on which applications should be funded, universities have every incentive to build new buildings. Furthermore, money awarded to the institution from prenegotiated F&A rates is relatively unrestricted—you don't actually have to sequester it and spend it only on things included in your F&A base. Usually it just goes into a big pot of money controlled by the university administration or a dean.

The best thing for a dean would be to get some rich donor to pay for the capital costs of a whole building, then borrow the money for the building and charge the federal government for interest, depreciation, and maintenance of the building. Then you can pay off the loans with the capital funds from the donor and use the federal F&A funds for whatever else you need but can't otherwise fund. And even if the building is used 100% for funded research, having the shiny new building provides additional benefits to the rest of the university. So it's a bit like triple-dipping with a side of money laundering.

I think new buildings are great and sometimes necessary. But U.S. tuition and healthcare costs share this economic problem with research indirect costs—the processes of deciding on a supplier and deciding on the costs are divorced. Students/patients/grant reviewers decide who should supply education/healthcare/research without even having knowledge of the full costs. Increasing costs can increase quality, and these suppliers don't have to compete as much as other businesses on value, so costs keep going up. For example, at Harvard Medical School, the F&A rate of 69.5% pays for many world-class facilities, while an unprestigious university's 46% rate pays for less. But since grant applications are reviewed partially on the strength of the institutional environment, Harvard should always win even if all other things about the application are equal.

The result of this system is that more and more of the limited federal research money every year goes to paying for buildings rather than research staff and supplies. But that's money that's not coming out of tuition dollars. On the other hand, universities are always whining that they don't actually get enough money from sponsors to cover the full indirect costs of research, so maybe some of the cost does end up coming from general funds like tuition.
posted by grouse at 12:08 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I work in university admin. And yeah, generally when we say "admin," we mean any non-faculty positions, including classified workers. Basically any position that might be considered indirect in something like our federally negotiated rate. I understand various studies may use different definitions, but the generally accepted definition in the culture is any non-faculty position.

I know a lot of folks, faculty especially, want to point to admin as a sort of scapegoat for rising tuition costs and flatlined faculty salaries, but the picture is just so much more complicated than that. The truth is that there isn't one cause of the tuition crisis.

Like it or not, most administrators are pretty damn necessary. Universities have to meet student and public demands, which have grown and are growing really rapidly. Is there inefficiency? Absolutely. But the truth is most admins just have daily grind type jobs that don't really pay all that well and that are pretty unexciting but need to be done. Universities these days have to have lots of student services, partnerships with high schools and community colleges, comprehensive health and counseling services, state-of-the-art technology and labs and people to support it, alumni support, academic and financial advisers, people to manage scholarships processes and grant management crap and publish the stupid quarterly newsletter. Oh, but that newsletter is totally unnecessary to a quality education you say. Of course it isn't; but try taking it away and wait for the gripes and the outrage and the alumni who say now they won't give their annual fund donation. Lots of what universities offer are not necessary to a quality education, but they are necessary to stay competitive for donations and the like but most importantly student tuition dollars, and that's where you get into this sort of spiral with the sushi at dinner and the rock walls and whatever.

It really is worth hammering on the loss of state support. Here in Oregon, we've lost something like 33% of state support in the past decade. This has resulted in two major outcomes. The first is that there is a greater need than ever for state universities to attract out-of-state students in order to subsidize the in-state tuition students. This means more money has to be spent on admissions staff, marketing, and attractive non-academic amenities. The second is that it has forced universities to seek greater private donation dollars, resulting in an ever-increasing coziness between the universities and wealthy alumni and business interests. Now, I'm all for businesses and alumni having a seat at the table - it's important to make sure education is somewhat aligned with real-world needs to an extent. But take a look at what's happening in Oregon - the big universities are now breaking off from the State Education Board, so there is no longer a Statewide governing body for higher ed. Now the big universities are getting their own independent boards, the seats of which are filled with industry leaders and wealthy donors who have an interest in having a more influential role on the direction of the institution. Make no mistake - this is a very bad thing for students. The point of having an objective, disinterested state board is to ensure equity and quality in education, not private interest.

Are there a few people at universities making big salaries, like the president? Yeah, there are. But compared to folks who run similarly sized and equally dynamic organizations, even university presidents aren't paid that well. And the president's job is not cushy or enviable. It's a 24/7, high-stress job that is honestly mostly lobbying and fundraising (again, thanks to the loss of state support). And provosts and deans are necessary people too. They are almost always faculty members who have risen through the ranks and who are charged with ensuring standards in curriculum and all sorts of other important leadership duties. You don't have to sit in on many faculty senate meetings before you understand the need for someone to be running the show.

A note on capital construction- Yeah, universities do spend a pretty good deal of money on capital construction. There are lots of reasons for this. One of them is that there are simply more college students than ever before. Another is the attract out-of-state/pay-out-of-pocket students spiral. Part of it is that, especially at public universities, it is part of our charter to serve the public in all sorts of ways that aren't directly related to undergraduate education - like research and other things which ostensibly yield benefits for the public generally, and these sorts of things take a lot of space. Keep in mind though that it is not the case that all of those buildings were just paid in cash from the university's over flowing coffers. These buildings are usually financed through a combination of bonds, loans, capital campaign fundraising, etc (and it takes people to manage each aspect of that financing, so you have to hire more admin, etc etc and on it goes).
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:11 PM on March 6 [13 favorites]


Furthermore, money awarded to the institution from prenegotiated F&A rates is relatively unrestricted—you don't actually have to sequester it and spend it only on things included in your F&A base. Usually it just goes into a big pot of money controlled by the university administration or a dean.

Well, kind of. Generally, the negotiated indirect rate has a percentage allocation within the university. It does not just go into a big pot of money controlled by administration. Usually the dean's office gets a %, the provost a %, the department a %, the library a %, the business office a % and so forth.

Harvard Med School is an outlier. Most indirect rates hover somewhere around 50%.

The best thing for a dean would be to get some rich donor to pay for the capital costs of a whole building, then borrow the money for the building and charge the federal government for interest, depreciation, and maintenance of the building. Then you can pay off the loans with the capital funds from the donor and use the federal F&A funds for whatever else you need but can't otherwise fund. And even if the building is used 100% for funded research, having the shiny new building provides additional benefits to the rest of the university. So it's a bit like triple-dipping with a side of money laundering.

Well, it should be noted that the dean probably doesn't have as much power as you think. Building a new building is a collaboration across the university and usually the university foundation, which is almost always a separate entity. Part of the problem of inefficiency in university administration is that there are so many cooks in the kitchen for all these decisions.

Another thing is that there is no way a donor will pay for the building and while the university borrows the money for the building at the same time, unless the donor's payment is a pledge and is being paid in installments. Part of this is because that donation is going to go through the 501c3 Foundation, and is going to be indexed for such and such a purpose, and the annual audit would pick up a scheme like that, to say nothing of the donor's wishes. Plus it isn't like the university can get more federal dollars for depreciation, etc., because of that. Yes, the more research they do the more money they will receive for indirect, but it isn't as if the university can build the building and charge the feds. Plus the allocation for depreciation, etc., in the negotiated rate is so little I'm not sure you'd come out that far ahead.

You'd be surprised just how strict university budgeting and financing is. It's also part of the problem. Money cannot easily be moved around. Tuition increases, at least for state universities, have to be approved, and tuition can only be used for certain costs (hence why there are also so many fees and such). Everything has very particular buckets. There are no big piles of unrestricted cash.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:21 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Generally, the negotiated indirect rate has a percentage allocation within the university. It does not just go into a big pot of money controlled by administration. Usually the dean's office gets a %, the provost a %, the department a %, the library a %, the business office a % and so forth.

But that is entirely up to the university. Some universities have a policy on this, but not all, and they can (and do) change at any time. I am more familiar with the details of this at a variety of universities than I would like to be. My point stands, though—the university can redirect the money in all sorts of ways that they can't for a research direct costs account or a donation with a specific purpose.

Plus it isn't like the university can get more federal dollars for depreciation, etc., because of that.

It will increase the rate they can negotiate for next time.
posted by grouse at 12:35 PM on March 6


Like it or not, most administrators are pretty damn necessary. Universities have to meet student and public demands, which have grown and are growing really rapidly. Is there inefficiency? Absolutely. But the truth is most admins just have daily grind type jobs that don't really pay all that well and that are pretty unexciting but need to be done.

This is basically it as far as I can tell. Are there too many administrators at universities? Almost certainly. But the reason is not that universities are inherently incapable of using labor efficiently. It's that they've started to do a whole crap ton of things that either other people or no one did in years past.

Serving a small menu of crap-ass food requires a lot less labor than than the full-on, high quality buffet that is most college dining halls these days. New classroom building? There's a handful of new facilities staff jobs. Inter-departmental degree program? Say hello to your non-faculty program administrator, because the faculty are already doing as much as they're willing/able to do in that vein. Public-private R&D partnership? Heck, you might need to hire a few lawyers to make the IP happen on that one. Want to attract international students? Better hire someone to deal with non-English speaking applicants. More students using loans/grants/scholarships than fifty years ago? You just bought yourself a Financial Aid department. And the more employees you add, the bigger HR needs to be to deal with it all.
posted by valkyryn at 12:37 PM on March 6 [8 favorites]


previously
posted by one weird trick at 1:38 PM on March 6


I'm not in academia, but my wife is. We met six years ago when she was working on her PhD (now she's a professor at a small private university).

Until we met, I had no idea things had changed so much since I was in college in the 80's. She laughs when I express surprise at how different things are now: How much more expensive everything is, how entitled students are (Tempur Pedic mattresses in dorm rooms? Really? Our dorms were spartan, and weren't even air conditioned). I don't remember availing myself of any "services" , or even having an advisor while I was in college. Maybe I talked to someone in an office a couple of times to confirm that I was in fact on track to graduate.

The latest idea of mine she laughs at is this: Why hasn't some school somewhere stripped all of the niceties that students supposedly demand, and instead provided a very high quality academic-only "experience": No sports, no fancy dorms, no (or minimal) "services" that require people to administer them. Just a high quality education, provided by highly qualified tenured or tenure-track faculty only. It seems like that would appeal to at least some students. But she just laughs at me...
posted by JeffL at 1:57 PM on March 6


The latest idea of mine she laughs at is this: Why hasn't some school somewhere stripped all of the niceties that students supposedly demand, and instead provided a very high quality academic-only "experience"

Mmm, I actually think it's only a matter of time before a model like this pops up. It'd be sort of the appeal of both online (which is cheap, and the fastest growing sector of higher ed), with the hands-on, in person benefits of being on campus. The backlash against rising tuition, debt, and amenities and college is growing. Someone will try this model, and yeah, it will definitely attract some students.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:01 PM on March 6


I mean, in a lot of ways, that is the community college model. So what you're talking about is a similar sort of thing, only with maybe more selectivity and rigorous academics.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:02 PM on March 6


I mean, in a lot of ways, that is the community college model. So what you're talking about is a similar sort of thing, only with maybe more selectivity and rigorous academics.

Exactly. But apparently students today really really want the services, sports and other extracurricular stuff.
posted by JeffL at 2:03 PM on March 6


Why hasn't some school somewhere stripped all of the niceties that students supposedly demand, and instead provided a very high quality academic-only "experience": No sports, no fancy dorms, no (or minimal) "services" that require people to administer them. Just a high quality education, provided by highly qualified tenured or tenure-track faculty only. It seems like that would appeal to at least some students.

I can't speak from personal experience, but I get the impression that St. John's isn't that far from what you're talking about.
posted by Copronymus at 2:09 PM on March 6


This is a complex and extremely important report, and it might be useful to clarify what's important at various institutional levels. There are at least two domains or systems involved: where funding comes from, and how it is spent, with both exhibiting relevant characteristics of point measures and changes over time. I'm most interested in the first, because it entails the least-defensible shifts in priorities and policy changes.

Where funding for higher education comes from has undergone a quiet but complete sea change in the past 20 years, mostly behind the back of the public. The big story here is that all institutions of higher education have seen state support fall, sometimes by double digits, year after year since the 90's, so much so that state funding is now less than half across the board and as little as 25-10% for some institutions. Public universities are now public in name only. This isn't because growth in costs outstripped available funding, it's because states have simply defunded higher education and student debt is issued with utter abandon: it has exploded into the trillions of dollars for the first time ever in American history.

So money that used to be guaranteed as direct appropriation from states to colleges and universities is now issued as debt to students. This has several important implications: in contrast to the past, monies now spent toward education are financialized, turned into things like collateralized debt obligations, and can create more value on the backs of students who even a decade ago wouldn't have had to take any debt on to get the knowledge and credentials they need to enter the workforce. Then, while these students will be paying their debt off into their 30's and 40's, guaranteeing a desperate reserve army of semi-skilled labor for businesses, the Department of Education is making hundreds of billions of dollars in profit from student loans. I don't know about anyone else, but as a citizen, I'm extremely interested in knowing where that outrageous rent is actually going, since it really seems to amount to a tax on social mobility. Who's benefiting? Private companies associated with the big banks make a few billion here and there on collecting these debts, but the federal government is the holder of the debt. Again, where is this unbelievable sum -- 120 billion dollars since 2008, with over 50 billion of that made in 2013 alone, a whopping 43% increase in profit from the year before -- going after it's extracted as theoretical value? Where is this money going?
posted by clockzero at 2:11 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


I think a lot of the super fancy stuff is there more to please alumni donors and parents than the students. Yes, my campus does need to continue replacing its dorms, which are way worse than the one I lived in in 1979. But most of the students of my institution come from working- or lower-middle-class backgrounds. For a lot of them, a modest dorm room would be a step up.

And I think if you showed students a two-column chart of "here's what you'll need to pay for an education plus all this fun extra stuff" vs. "here's what you'll pay for an education, room and board, and all the necessary academic and personal support services," you might be surprised how many opt for #2.

I dunno, my students don't seem to want super-nice dorms; most of them move off-campus to the cruddy college-town pit apartments that have been in college towns since time immemorial and don't care at all. They live in puke-encrusted frat houses, etc. What they'd like is: more parking spots. Actual competent snow removal. Real tech support on weekends instead of some dork who answers phones.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:13 PM on March 6


JeffL: Until we met, I had no idea things had changed so much since I was in college in the 80's. She laughs when I express surprise at how different things are now: How much more expensive everything is, how entitled students are (Tempur Pedic mattresses in dorm rooms? Really? Our dorms were spartan, and weren't even air conditioned). I don't remember availing myself of any "services" , or even having an advisor while I was in college. Maybe I talked to someone in an office a couple of times to confirm that I was in fact on track to graduate.

Well, I think it's only fitting that accommodations are better now. When I first got into community college, I took a look at the dorms; they were as expensive as an apartment and looked like a cross between a bomb shelter and a prison. You'd have had to be absolutely insane to live there, when a fairly small amount of extra money (like, less than a hundred dollars a month) would have put you in an apartment near the college which would have been a hundred times nicer and not included a bunch of dick RAs and some administrator telling you how to live.

Personally even now I wouldn't touch any kind of campus housing with a ten-foot pole, which makes me pretty angry about the places that make you live in it for one or more years. Yeah, that's probably the only way they can keep it occupied.

On a side note, while not having an advisor might have worked out for you, I'd like to mention to anyone else in college that not having an advisor is a terrible idea, you want to get a good advisor you like and get them right away. Seriously, it is critical. All programs include some other stuff that you need to do to actually get a job after graduation (internships, undergraduate research, etc.) and you need to know what that is. There's also a million other things you need them for (make sure you take the right classes both in order to graduate and to be employable, make sure your long-term plans make sense, help you with other faculty if you have problems, etc.) Good advising is absolutely critical, I cannot stress this enough.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:17 PM on March 6


How much more expensive everything is, how entitled students are (Tempur Pedic mattresses in dorm rooms? Really? Our dorms were spartan, and weren't even air conditioned). I don't remember availing myself of any "services" , or even having an advisor while I was in college.

I work at a college (a nice, high-ranked one) and our dorms have mattresses older than me and also lack air conditioning. We have a lot of services, which is one reason students come here-- internship coordinators, alumnae coordinators, more advisors-- but this is in part because alums give more money for those things, and they give more money in general to have access to the college afterwards, especially if we have helped them get jobs. We gave up Blackboard, but we still have one person who works on Moodle full-time. We still can't afford real tech support on weekends, sorry, just students. We do have services for students with disabilities, for example, and we spend a lot of money making sure that they can take classes and access buildings on campus and other necessary and worthy things. We have services for students who are international, so that they aren't isolated within the community. We have a lot, a lot, of people who try to work with the faculty and staff on tech support issues and embedding technology into the curriculum.

I remember reading some articles about a stripped-down college experience a while ago, maybe this Chronicle one? I thought there was one about a college in a cheap office building with no dorms, no clubs, etc. but I can't find it now! I don't know that they've been overwhelming successes and there is the other factor of still needing IT infrastructure, compliance with federal law, library access...it's tough. I don't know where the savings will come from.

I'm not an "administrator," but I'm probably in the professional category.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:22 PM on March 6


But apparently students today really really want the services, sports and other extracurricular stuff.

I think some of the rush towards what universities think students want is due to university rankings. A good university is not going to have any trouble filling an incoming class even if they don't have a climbing wall1. But they might have to be slightly less selective about their students, which will hurt their ranking. They could skip the academic assistance and retention programs (and the all the administrators and staff that go with them), but that will decrease their retention rate, which will hurt their ranking. You know what else will hurt their ranking? Spending less money on student services—10 percent of the U.S. News ranking is due to money spent per student. So spending more leads to an automatic boost in the rankings, even if the spending doesn't benefit anything.

But yeah, students really do want much of this stuff. You get student government assemblies voting to raise special student services fees to pay for enrichment, while they send delegations to university administrators and state legislatures demanding that they keep tuition low. Even though it's the tuition that pays for the instruction that they are ostensibly at the university for.

1 No one has mentioned climbing walls yet? How will anyone fill their tuition discussion bingo card?
posted by grouse at 3:10 PM on March 6


No one has mentioned climbing walls yet? How will anyone fill their tuition discussion bingo card?

I did. Because I need that Bingo.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:13 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Ahhhh, you said "rock wall" earlier. Maybe that is why climbing walls had entered my subconscious.
posted by grouse at 3:19 PM on March 6


The latest idea of mine she laughs at is this: Why hasn't some school somewhere stripped all of the niceties that students supposedly demand, and instead provided a very high quality academic-only "experience"

That sounds somewhat like a top public university in Europe or Latin America, though I'll bet that many of those are adding services as well, if nothing else in order to compete for lucrative study abroad students. I doubt there would be much competitive advantage for that as a business model in the US, and as noted above, a lot of the so-called "bloat" comes from mandatory stuff (e.g. ADA compliance and a good IT department) rather than frills.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:40 PM on March 6


From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anon:

"Hang on a sec - when they talk about "administration," are they talking about things like "The Dean Of Diversity" or are they talking about, like, secretarial staff?"

So, my partner is an actual Dean of Diversity (with a slightly different job title, but it's the same thing). Every time we have a conversation here about academic administration, diversity positions get trotted out as absurd examples of universities wasting money, but my experience is that this just isn't true (and that we keep using diversity as an example of waste says a lot).

The vast majority of her working hours go towards mission-critical functions for the school like helping expand the donor base, resolving enrollment issues, or preventing and resolving potential legal or public relations nightmares. (It's a lot cheaper to hire a competent senior administrator than it is to join the list of schools that are facing huge Title IX lawsuits over mishandled sexual assault cases, or are in the news because the frats held yet another blackface party.) Big areas of her job description come directly from federal and legal mandates, rather than some "social justice" desire to hold hands and sing kumbaya -- you can hire one person to do it, or apportion the work to existing administrators, but those functions are completely non-optional, and many of them didn't exist even a decade or so ago.

In exchange for the slightly higher pay (juuuuust into the six figures, about 20 percent more than she was earning as a professor) and a chance to have an institutional impact, she gave up tenured job security and the nice academic schedule. (When you include the external summer support and grants she no longer gets, that raise shrinks dramatically.)

I would guess that almost every position that people talk about as "bloat" or "waste" is similarly driven by either external mandates or by clear financial incentives. Money is tight in higher ed and if a school really thought they could save money by returning student services to a 1970s level, they would do so.
posted by jessamyn at 6:18 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


For the record, I wasn't denigrating the idea of there being a Dean of Diversity, I think it's a great idea. It just was the first example I came up with for "a position that is neither faculty or clerical staff".

I was more reacting to my own confusion because in my mind "administration" refers to the clerical staff, and academia always gets me confused about who they're talking about with the term which has made for some weird moments job searching for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:47 AM on March 7


I'm currently in the last round for one of these positions, and I can say two things about it: the workload and responsibilities are such that the extra pay would be gravy, not necessary (but don't tell them that), and at the same time the university can't afford to be spending this money on me given its other needs. The problem is that there's money for the position but not for instruction.

Universities have realized that hiring lots of cheap instructional staff is free money for other things, because the PhDs are out there and willing to work cheap. What's weird is that faculty are people who could do the kind of work that Deans make six figures to do, but PhDs can and would do it for much less. Yet when you stand for these administrative/professional jobs, you realize that winning comes with perks, money, power, and prestige, with a lot smaller workload. The idea that Deans and other people in these positions are somehow unfairly maligned for their privileged position is a weird holdover of winner-take-all capitalism and bootstraps-ideology. Many Deans and administrators are nice people, and some do a lot of work (though they often are very well supported in that work, unlike the faculty.) That doesn't mean they deserve to make five (or ten! or one hundred!) times what the people actually delivering instruction in the classrooms get.

I'd love to get this job and if I do I'll be nice about it and work hard. But it's going to be easier and more fun than my current job and I'll likely receive a lot of extra money for the ease and enjoyment. That's basically the definition of competition for rent-seeking opportunities; if you win, you get more for less, while the losers get less for more. That only happens when there's something fundamentally broken with an institution, and it puts everyone in the position of competing for those few spots when they (and I!) ought to be competing to be the best teachers and scholars.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:12 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Ah, here we go. I remembered having read this when it was printed, but couldn't find reference to it because I was conflating it in my memory with the earlier scandal regarding improper use of grant funds at Stanford when Donald Kennedy was its president, during Reagan's term as US president.

Anyway, I think it is a valuable piece of the puzzle, showing as it does a change in the way tenure track faculty salaries (and the harder-to-account-for perquisites like lab space, staff support, and new-hire start-up packages) have been handled:

Twenty years ago, under the presidency of George H. W. Bush, the Department of Justice charged the Ivy League universities and MIT with conspiring to restrict financial-aid awards, and thus to fix prices. Officers of the various Ivy League schools, it seems, were then in the habit of meeting several times a year to discuss tuition increases, faculty salaries, and financial-aid packages with their supposed competitors. It was classic price-fixing behavior—Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called the schools a “collegiate cartel”—and the antitrust violation seemed obvious on its face. The Ivies settled immediately after the suit was filed in 1991, signing a consent decree that forbade them to collude over tuition, salary, or financial-aid awards. (The decree expired in 2001.)

The way I see it, this was akin to prominent faculty having gotten free-agency.

On review, it obviously also directly changed how tuition was handled.
posted by one weird trick at 9:31 AM on March 7


Dark thoughts: why mental illness is on the rise in academia
posted by jeffburdges at 12:58 PM on March 7


Anyways we should jump on automating, parallelizing, wikifying, etc. all "control jobs" as quickly as possible. And "control jobs" includes both the administrative and managerial jobs.

Ain't so easy doing this in academia though because academics working one administration, management, economics, etc. act don't seem particularly progressive. In particular, we hear about companies actually doing interesting things much more frequently than we hear about interesting management ideas coming from academia.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:31 AM on March 9


I spend a lot of time trying to make sure out departmental files are up to date on processes and procedures, but wow, we could never have transparent email at the college, the privacy concerns would be brutal and crushing. I don't honestly think that's a bad thing, considering our population.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:07 AM on March 9


Students are made to believe that 'university is all about them'
posted by jeffburdges at 4:39 AM on April 1


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