By Professor Doom
Growth, growth, growth, it’s all admin ever seems to talk about. Higher Education has been grown, I must admit. There certainly are more students on campus, much more. My workload is easily double what it was 20 years ago, at least as far as teaching.
So, more students. What else has changed? A report from last year sums up the details:
Definitely some growth here. But what, besides student base, has been growing?
Growth in administrative jobs was widespread across higher education—
but creating new professional positions, rather than executive and managerial positions, is what drove the increase. Professional positions
(for example, business analysts, human resources staff, and admissions
staff) grew twice as fast as executive and managerial positions at public
nonresearch institutions between 2000 and 2012, and outpaced enrollment growth.
No real surprise there. In addition to larger classes, administrative ranks have grown, and grown, and grown some more. I used to work as a small community college where a single procedural error on my part would cause 4 or more bosses to come a’running to let me know.
My class sizes are larger, because of the enrollment growth. I grant that economy of scale works to a point, although I honestly don’t believe universities should charge for courses with enrollments in the hundreds—these kids are, at best, teaching themselves, and, more realistically, are just taking bogus coursework of no value. Apparently there’s no economy of scale for administration, as administrative positions outpaced enrollment.
If there’s no economy of scale, then why the fetishization of growth, over things like quality and price? Oh, right, the benefactors of the growth, administration, don’t care about quality and price.
I’ve certainly discussed insane Poo-Bah pay before, but where else is the growth in administration going?
Colleges and universities have invested in professional jobs that provide noninstructional student services, not just business support. Across all educational sectors, wage and salary expenditures for student services (per FTE staff) were the fastest growing salary expense…
The report shows that the administrative growth has poured into student services, but allow me to fill in the details for this, from my own direct observation on a campus where about as much floor space was devoted to student services as to education.
…Another group of deans constituted themselves as the “War Zones Task Force.” This group recruited staffers, held many meetings, and prepared a number of reports whose upshot seemed to be that students should be discouraged from traveling to war zones…
Before I start, I remind the gentle reader that most of the money flowing into education doesn’t go into education any more. Instead, it goes into “fiefdoms”, little administrative kingdoms filled with deanlings with fancy-sounding titles like “Executive Assistant Associate Supportive Vice President of Student Sustainability”, or other such nonsense. These deanlings’ jobs are inscrutable, and they mostly waste time going to corporate retreats and babbling corporatespeak at each other. No faculty, and almost no student, will ever even meet most of these deanlings, which have nothing to do with the published educational mission statements of education, research, or job training.
Of all the fiefdoms, “student services” is the best kind of fiefdom to have.
Ostensibly, a student services fiefdom is to service the students in some way, but realistically, they’re pointless money-soaks of no educational value. Let’s talk about how easy it is to have a dozen $100,000 a year deanlings do absolutely nothing in this fiefdom for at least a decade, with nobody finding out.
First, a student services fiefdom needs to “get the word out” once it gets established. Obviously, students won’t go the place if they don’t know about it. So, the first year of the fiefdom will have nothing to show at all, and, depending on the size of the campus, it might take at least 3 years before they might be expected to demonstrate a roomful of students that have benefited from the new fiefdom. Millions in administrative salaries spent on…nothing measureable.
Second, the customers are students. It’s a trivial matter to say “students are using us, but don’t want to give us their names”, and privacy laws protect them. If you’re in a student services fiefdom dealing with stress, anxiety, failure, sexual assault, or bullying, this can take you very far. There’s no way this type of fiefdom can be shut down: what Poo Bah wants to be on a campus that’s not willing to do something about bullying or sexual assault? Heck, the merest hint that this fiefdom might get shut down will probably force the Poo Bah to hire an EXTRA $100,000 a year deanling. Millions more spent, just to protect the ego of the Poo Bah.
Third, did I mention the customers are students? Even if you’re in a fiefdom that isn’t dealing with a hot-button issue, even something as tame as “tutoring”, you’re still pretty golden. Tutoring services might make the student sign in or register, but so what? You just put down names of students that might not be doing well in classes. When the fiefdom is up for review every three or four years, well, gee, those students have long since dropped out and thus can’t be tracked down. If they’ve graduated, well, gee, that means the tutoring worked! I’ve seen many “tutoring halls” packed with minimally paid student tutors, ruled over by deanlings, and with zero students in them for hours on end (in case you’re wondering, I volunteered my time to work in a few just to see with my own eyes that what I saw from outside the doorway was pretty accurate). Millions more spent with no way to tell for sure if it was used wisely.
Fourth, these really are students…they’re pretty easy to please when you don’t ask them to study or do work. I’ve seen more than a few such fiefdoms offer “free pizza” parties, and it’s a simple matter to give a student a few slices of pizza in exchange for him to fill out a positive evaluation form showing that the student thinks the fiefdom is doing a good job. I’ve earlier mentioned a few sex-themed workshops presented by fiefdoms, which is just taking the pizza party concept to a
different level. Yes, I’ve had my share of free pizza at these parties…but in
terms of taxpayer dollars, I reckon every slice I’ve had represents about
$30,000 or so of taxpayer money…it’s only that low because I can put away quite
a few slices.
But all the report says is “more administrators are working in student services”. I don’t blame the report for not giving the background for what these fiefdoms are about, but “working” is a strong word for it.
It’s a 34 page report, and I’m only up to page 3 here, but one more quote is worth addressing, because it really tells the tale in higher education:
As the ranks of managerial and professional administrative workers
grew, the number of faculty and staff per administrator continued to
More administrators, more students…less educators. When the whole “more money for higher education” idea was sold to the voter, neither Left nor Right ever hinted that this would be the end result of all that money.
More next time. In the meantime, the gentle reader may wish to see how one building describes all that is wrong with higher education today…and explains another source of irrelevant growth.
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