Administrative Bloat Study Includes UW, UWM

MacIver News Service | August 17, 2010

Wisconsin’s two largest public universities are highlighted in a new report that assails excess management costs in higher education.

The study,  Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education was published by the Goldwater Institute, a self-described independent government watchdog located in Arizona.

“Universities have pressured students, taxpayers, and private donors for more money to improve the quality of higher education, and then these schools have hired far more administrators than teachers,” said Dr. Jay P. Greene, one of the study’s authors and a Goldwater Institute senior fellow. “Hiring nearly three times as many administrators as professors probably isn’t what people have in mind when they agree to give universities more money.”

Greene also heads the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

Among the report’s findings:

  • At the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the number of full-time administrators ?per 100 students increased by 32 percent between 1993 and 2007, while full-time employees engaged ?in instruction, research, and service increased by only 5 percent.
  • UW-Madison, the UW System’s flagship university, employs 14.4 full-time ?administrators per 100 students, compared to only 7.4 teachers and researchers.
  • At the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee the number of full-time administrators per 100 ?students grew by 2 percent between 1993 and 2007, while the number of full-time teachers, ?researchers, and service-providers actually declined by 3 percent.
  • UWM employs 3.6 full-time ?administrators per 100 students, compared to 3.5 teachers and researchers.

Nationally, between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent.

Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent.

The report’s authors assert that a significant reason for the administrative bloat is that students pay only a small portion of administrative costs. They note that a lion’s share of most universities’ resources come from the federal and state governments as well as private gifts and fees for non-educational services. The large and increasing rate of government subsidy for higher education facilitates administrative bloat by insulating students from the costs, they say.

“If there are any universities realizing economies of scale to reduce their costs per student as their enrollments grow, there is no sign of it among these leading universities,” the report concludes.

Reducing government subsidies would do much to make universities more efficient, the authors argue.

Click here for a copy of the report.