NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bureaucratic Bloat in Universities

September 22, 2011

It's time for a tuition revolt, and higher taxes aren't the answer.  Students and the rest of the public are now paying for decades of mission creep and bureaucratic bloat.  The regents of the University of California met this past week to revisit an old issue they've never really dealt with well -- how to cope with erratic (and usually dwindling) state aid.  They will probably raise tuition again, as they have in the past, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

In the meantime, they have offered a plan to raise students' costs by at least 8 percent, and up to 16 percent, annually for the next four years.  Unfortunately, they will probably come up short in efforts to raise money from private donors and foundations, and they will not sufficiently trim their budgets to make a difference.  Then they'll have to face the inevitable question: What went wrong?

Consider the swelling at the UC system over the past two decades, says IBD.

  • There now are nearly as many senior managers (8,144) as tenured and tenure-track faculty (8,521).
  • As recently as 1993, the ratio between these groups was much different -- 2,429 to 6,846.
  • Put another way, 18 years ago the student-to-upper management ratio was 62-to-1; now it's all the way down to 2-to-1.
  • The ratio of students to regular faculty, meanwhile, has risen from 22-to-1 in 1993 to 26-to-1.

The trend in the UC system reflects a broader shift in the staffing of American academia.

  • Nationally, the percentage of what the U.S. Department of Education calls "other professionals" at colleges and universities grew from 9.6 percent in 1976 to 20.7 percent in 2009.
  • This category is a catch-all for nonteaching employees in positions requiring a bachelor's degree or better (and being paid accordingly).

Yet tuition continues to rise faster than inflation, as it has for several decades.  Real change means taking an axe to operations that do nothing to promote what should be its core mission -- transmitting and creating knowledge for the public good, says IBD.

Source: "By the Way, We Teach a Little Too," Investor's Business Daily, September 19, 2011.

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