Administrator overload keeps cost of higher ed spiraling up

June 6, 2011

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IN THEIR front-page May 23 article “UMass looks at another fee hike,’’ Noah Bierman and Frank Phillips describe the rising costs of in-state tuition for Massachusetts universities, and the deep frustration that such an increase brings. Your May 30 editorial “UMass must take steps to slow the rise of middle-class tuition’’ echoes the theme. However, you neglect to discuss what may be the most important cause of such price inflation: the massive ballooning of college administrations.

In 1993, when tuition stood at less than half what it does today, UMass Amherst had 1,422 faculty and 1,367 “professionals,’’ defined by UMass Amherst as “executive, administrative, managerial, and professional personnel.’’ Today, according to the university’s own fact book, the administrators outnumber the faculty by more than 200: 1777 to 1554. Thus, in the last 18 years the faculty has increased by 10 percent while administrators have gone up 30 percent.

UMass Amherst is not alone. In 2006, according to a study by the federal Department of Education, university administrators across the country began to outnumber faculty as full-time employees. Between 2006 and 2009 alone, universities added 71,758 new non-teaching jobs, representing an estimated $3.6 billion increase in noneducational personnel — an increase that took place in the heart of the recession, even courses were canceled and class sizes increased nationwide.

We assume that the money we spend for tuition goes to the education of our children; part of it does, but as the numbers indicate, a greater part of it disappears into the morass of an ever-expanding student-life bureaucracy.

Harvey A. Silverglate
The writer, a lawyer, is the co-author of “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses’’ and is chairman of the board of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.