MINK: The misguided bureaucratization of higher education
The growth of administrative positions threatens to undermine the core mission of universities
Once, when a parent wrote a tuition check for his child he could be confident that though large, that check was going toward providing crucial elements for his child’s education. This is no longer the case. Instead, a large chunk of a check made out for tens of thousands of dollars is feeding the burgeoning administrative staff on college campuses. Though an effective bureaucracy is essential for the running of any university, college administrations seem to be no longer doing their jobs with the efficiency they once did. Tuition money should be spent on professors and other items essential for a student’s education, not a bureaucracy that drags down the efficiency of an institution.
Between 1993 and 2009, administrative positions at colleges swelled by 60 percent, a rate of growth 10 times that of the growth in tenured faculty positions. In addition, a study done on 198 research universities by an education professor at the University of Arkansas found that spending on administration has been rising faster than funding for research and instruction. The proponents of this slate of new hiring would argue the complexity of a modern college campus demands positions dedicated to such actions as fundraising and student care. They might also add that not all the blame be laid at the feet of universities, who have had to increase hiring to deal with new government regulations and student demands.
For most administrative positions, which include jobs essential for the operation of a college, these arguments are true. However, it is important to remember the purpose of college is to educate students, and therein its institutional focus should lie. This cannot be done as effectively when money that should be spent on faculty members is instead being spent on the people managing those members. This trade off has been demonstrated by the hiring of more part-time professors that has accompanied the growth in administrative staffs, a disturbing trend that can be seen here on Grounds as well as across the nation. These adjunct faculty members, who are paid less with fewer benefits, currently make up half of instructors at colleges, a large increase from a third in 1987. At the University alone, the number of non-tenure track faculty increased from 162 in the 2012-13 school year to 290 in 2014-15. Taken together, these trends suggest universities currently place a higher value on the addition of administrative positions than faculty ones.
The danger of an increased administrative presence on Grounds is greater than just the additional cost. Administrators might become disconnected from the faculty and students they are meant to serve. Though many administrators such as guidance and Counseling and Psychological Services counselors see students on a daily basis, others lack direct communication with students. This divide can leave those administrators unaware of the problems and issues present in an everyday student’s life, and they can quickly drift out of touch with the wants and needs of the student body. An administration unaware of the concerns of the student body will be unable to make the changes students need.
Though a majority of administrators serve functions that are absolutely necessary for the operation of colleges, the rapid growth of these positions in a time of rising college costs means a closer look should be taken at their effectiveness and efficiency. The administrative body of any University should be a streamlined entity helping to provide a positive educational environment to students while allowing professors to accomplish the task of teaching students. Instead, the bureaucracy we see today has outsized the faculty it was meant to serve. The diversion of such a large amount of resources to administrative staff rather than faculty is a detriment to the educational quality of the University, misusing money that would be better spent on more full time professors or educational resources for students. This shift toward administrators instead of faculty should be stopped to ensure colleges remain focused education.
Alex Mink is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.