Press "Enter" to skip to content

Management occupations at community colleges alive and well

Staffing has become a challenge for some community colleges. In the recent past, they have lost staff to layoffs, attrition, and retirements. Their instructors have even been poached by four-year universities. Many community colleges have fewer full-time staff members today than they did 5-10 years ago. The decline in staffing isn’t coming from management occupations, though.

In looking at the community colleges in southeast and central Michigan, staffing in management occupations has continued to increase. Only one institution – Wayne County Community College District – reported one-third fewer full-time employees in management occupations in 2022 than it did in 2015. WCCCD’s managerial payroll also dropped by 23% during that time. Another institution – Macomb Community College – held the size of its management constant between 2015 and 2022.

WCC clocked in with the second-largest managerial payroll among eight community colleges in southeast and central Michigan in 2022. It also registered the second-largest management staff among the same institutions in 2015.

I find it fascinating that WCC, which has a much smaller enrollment than the two largest community colleges in Michigan (Macomb CC and Oakland CC) has a larger management staff than either school. I have yet to find anyone who can explain what makes WCC so special in that regard. If anything, a smaller school that requires a larger management staff suggests either lard or incompetence.

Between 2015 and 2022, WCC expanded its managerial ranks by a net of just 6 individuals. In the same timeframe, WCC’s managerial payroll increased by $1.265M. The average salary for all individuals in management occupations at WCC in 2021-22 was just over $91,000. However, the managerial payroll increased an average of nearly $211,000 per managerial position added between 2015-2022.

Managements occupations increase payroll when all else is shrinking

That suggests the managerial positions WCC added were of the high-dollar variety. Practically speaking, some of the change in the management payroll came from annual salary increases. But WCC’s average annual salary increase is something on the order of 1%-2%. And among the other community colleges in the area, WCC has the third-lowest average salary for management occupations.

The other notable point here is that the size of the administration for most community colleges (including WCC) didn’t decline. Overall staff numbers have dropped. Both the full- and part-time instructional staffs have declined along with the enrollment. That makes sense.

However, growing the size of the managerial staff does not. Fewer students and fewer processes to manage should mean also fewer managers. Yet it has not. Even if you want to argue that federal and state regulations and/or requirements have placed additional administrative burdens on the institution, those regulations and requirements are being applied to fewer students.

I’m not sure why the size of the managerial staff at WCCCD declined. I have a theory about Macomb CC’s zero-growth result, though. At Macomb CC, every individual position goes before the Board for approval. The MCC Board exercises a high degree of control over expenditures related to hiring. They employ a strict gatekeeping process, and I suspect it’s hard to make a successful case for expanding the staff. The result: zero managerial staff expansion.

If the WCC Board exercised more control over hiring, WCC – with its 7,600 FTE students – would not have a dozen Vice Presidents on staff. In fact, WCC would probably not have six vice presidents on staff. Washtenaw County taxpayers deserve a little more consideration than we get from the WCC Board of Trustees. We don’t deserve indiscriminate executive hiring; yet here we are.

Photo Credit: Just Works , via Flickr