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Bureaucracy will eventually cut into instruction

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, US community college spend 42% of their budget on instruction. In a recent Board meeting, WCC CFO Bill Johnson indicated that WCC spent 42% of its FY 2019 budget on instruction. That’s remarkably average.

The national 6-year completion rate for 2-year colleges is about 40%. Michigan’s overall 6-year community college completion rate is also around 40%. Washtenaw Community College’s completion rate is around 17%.

WCC does not skimp on instruction spending. Remember, it reports spending the national average. Despite this, WCC’s spending yields less-than-average results. Nearly $0.60 of every dollar WCC receives is spent on something other than instruction. Which makes the enormous growth in the size of the College’s administrative staff more troubling.

The ranks of the WCC administration are filled with a vast variety of people engaged in mostly bureaucratic work. And as I wrote yesterday, some administration is necessary. Unrestricted spending on administrative hiring cannot help but impact WCC’s ability to maintain instructional spending at the national average level it currently reports. If it has not already done so, WCC’s administrative hiring will soon cripple its ability to deliver its primary product -education.

Without serious reductions in the size of WCC’s internal bureaucracy, its staff costs – in the form of salaries and benefits, as well as administrative departmental budgets – will rise. This kind of staff expansion is unsustainable over the long term.

While the President has offered “unsustainability” as one reason for outsourcing the IT staff, closer analysis shows that the internal IT staff cost the College less and returned more than the current outsourced “solution.” Cutting functional administrative groups to preserve dysfunctional ones is not the way to address bureaucratic overgrowth. Restrained administrative hiring is a fundamentally better approach.

Photo Credit: Christian Schnettelker, via Flickr