College Debt and Tuition Pushed Up By Administrator Salaries

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


Let’s start at the top.

According to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the 2011 fiscal year, 132 presidents of public colleges and universities made $344,000 or more — the income level that marks the divide between the bottom 99 percent and the top 1 percent. Private-college presidents raked in even more: 208 made $344,000 or more in 2010, with 36 of those making $1 million or more.

But focusing in on one man’s salary is the old CEO fallacy. Expenses don’t get bloated to unsustainable levels by one man, unless he’s the former CEO of TYCO, but they often do say something about the spending culture and bureaucratic bloat underneath.

Like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn’t keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3½ students.

Many of the newly hired, it turns out, were doing little teaching. A Wall Street Journal analysis of University of Minnesota salary and employment records from 2001 through last spring shows that the system added more than 1,000 administrators over that period. Their ranks grew 37%, more than twice as fast as the teaching corps and nearly twice as fast as the student body.

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 isn’t just true of colleges, it’s also true of much of American business, but it’s a serious problem in education, both higher and basic, because the bureaucratization of education is paid for by public money.

Administrative employees make up an increasing share of the university’s higher-paid people. The school employs 353 people earning more than $200,000 a year. That is up 57% from the inflation-adjusted pay equivalent in 2001. Among this $200,000-plus group, 81 today have administrative titles, versus 39 in 2001.

Administrators making over $300,000 in inflation-adjusted terms rose to 17 from seven.

Many forces besides administrative overhead add to universities’ cost pressures, among them health-care and retirement expenses. And among the administrative spending, some is unavoidable, such as that owing to federal rules requiring greater spending to oversee research grants or accommodations for students with disabilities.

Federal regulations are of course a major driver of bureaucracy. Regulations require more administrators. The more regulations there are, the more administrators have to be put on the job.

The number of employees at the University of Minnesota with “human resources” or “personnel” in their job title—272—has increased by a third since the 2004-2005 academic year, a period during which the enrollment grew approximately 8%.

In its Office of Equity and Diversity, the number of people with “director” in their title grew to 10 in the 2011-2012 school year from just four directors five years earlier, by a university official’s count.

Political correctness is always good for bloat.

The Journal, using payroll data provided by the university, calculated that across all of the system’s campuses, administrators consume 24% of the payroll, up from 20% in 2001. Employees who teach, such as professors, lecturers and instructors, account for 37% of the payroll, down from 39% in 2001,

Several years ago, Russell Luepker, a professor of epidemiology at the school of public health, sought reimbursement for a $12 parking bill. The form went from a secretary to the head of his department to an accountant who entered it in a computer to a senior accountant responsible for approving it. Richard Portnoy, chief administrative officer in the epidemiology department, estimates it cost $75 to move the paperwork. When Dr. Luepker heard of it, he stopped filing for parking reimbursements.

This is your education. This is your education on bureaucracy.

  • JacksonPearson

    Nothing new here. Like the California lottery that was suppose to help education. Instead, all it's done was to fattened teacher salaries and retirements. Meanwhile, student test scores have gone downward.

    • Mary Sue

      Well you know, teachers often complain about how they should be getting the big bucks because what they do is way more important than any given highly paid professional athlete! They're doing it for the kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiids! :p

      • JacksonPearson

        {{{Chuckling}}}…Just threaten to disarm their public employee union, and you'll quickly find out how much their dedications are really all about.

  • Thomas Wells

    This is just one more way to make sure that the libroid propaganda pap is pushed down the throats of students.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Public education is the cathedrial of leftist self worship, they increase leftist thinkers and
    what do they do, not much at all outside of spend tax monies to promote themselves, a
    self serving system, or should I say scam. What are the students getting for thier tuition and
    what benefit to society is it to pay thier way to unemployment and inability to find work
    that is aided by the College education they received or should it be time spent in College,
    education being to vacuous a comodity today to make sense of. The American dream is
    for our children to be well educated to meet the demands of life, in America it is now only
    necessary to apply for some form of welfare support. Work, productivity, bettering life,
    I thought those failures were highlighted by the thousands of Phd cab drivers of the 1970's,
    it seems no one is learning from anything, past nor present…………………..William

  • Herb Benty

    It is very easy to see the reason for this bloat and the truly sinister nature of it. After talking to a friend who travels to Cuba often with shoes and clothes for some kids there, I now understand Obama and his Marxist pals and it dovetails with what is happening in " Education". The massive increase in regulations is meant to increase people employed by government as in comunist countries. When enough gov't employees are hired, free people are a minority, the leaders can claim a dictatorship, ( as some have already encouraged), and the "transformation" is complete. Forward! Free people, please wake up… thank you.

    • Herb Benty

      Just wondering why my last comment has to be approved, when my previous comments were posted instantly? Did I say something wrong or what.

  • Herb Benty

    The reason for bloated gov't, is the same as in any Marxist country, that is to make gov't larger in populace than free people, thus allowing a dictatorship that can never be voted out and so the "transformation of a free country can proceed unhindered. Forward!

  • Larry

    In Australia over a 10 year period the number of tertiary academic staff increased 80%. Not too shabby until you find that over the same 10 year period, in the same tertiary institutions, the number of administrative staff increased 800%.
    And that's while many of those same tertiary institutions were cutting corners on courses, or cutting them out of the curriculum completely.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwEuc0wkk8U college debt

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say great blog!