Press "Enter" to skip to content

The cost of administrative bloat

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, US colleges and universities now spend nearly as much money on administration as they do on instruction. Administrative bloat is significant because 30 years ago, administrative costs accounted for 26% of higher education budgets, while instruction costs consisted of 41%.

I have written extensively about the growth of the WCC administration since FY2012. This growth pattern isn’t unique to WCC. It’s happening all over. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Administrative bloat hasn’t increased student enrollment. It has not increased graduation rates. It has not increased educational persistence. Nor has it increased student achievement or institutional effectiveness. It has not closed the “achievement gap” between African American students and their white or Asian counterparts. It has not lifted one single student out of poverty.

What have the students and the community gotten in return from the grossly inflated WCC administration? Higher educational costs, pointless and expensive new construction, buildings neglected to the point of failure and millions of wasted dollars.

That’s about it.

Administrative bloat robs students, community

Here’s another statistic to think about when it comes to administrative bloat – especially at WCC. At public research universities, the ratio between faculty members and administrators is about 2.5:1. At Washtenaw Community College, as of June 30, 2019 – the last full year for which staff data were reported – WCC’s faculty-to-administrator ratio was 1:1.2.

Yes, there are more administrators than there are full-time faculty members. Just as a reminder, WCC is in the business of educating people. It is not such a complex operation that it needs more administrators than faculty members.

The sad part is that every dollar that WCC spends on administration could otherwise improve educational delivery. Each dollar not wasted on administrative bloat could increase student enrollment, graduation rates and educational persistence. Careful control of administrative costs could increase student achievement and institutional effectiveness. Close management of administrative bloat could actually close the “achievement gap” between African American students and their white and Asian counterparts. Eliminating administrative costs could – in fact – lift Washtenaw County residents out of poverty.

The WCC Board of Trustees had an obligation to the taxpayers to ensure that administrative bloat was not allowed to happen. They have failed us in that regard. They now have an obligation to the taxpayers to put an end to administrative bloat and refocus WCC on its educational mission.

Photo Credit: Adriana W. Van Leeuwen, via Flickr