The Goldwater Institute study presumed that, as in private industry, efficiency in higher education should rise along with output — in this case, the increase in the number of students being served. Instead, it said, the opposite has happened at American universities. Even as enrollments increase, it found, the universities employ not fewer people and spend less money, but hire more people and use more money to educate each student.
A few universities said they’re trying to contain the growth in staffing. MIT, for instance, where the federal figures show the number of administrators increased 137 percent, from 268 to 635, during a period when enrollment rose 16 percent, now has policies in place under which employees cannot be replaced without their positions being reevaluated, said Lydia Snover, director of institutional research.
“We worry about it a lot,” Snover said. “The faculty are very, very sensitive to the growth in staff.”
There is some evidence that that growth has slowed since the economic downturn. Figures supplied by Suffolk, for example, show that its overall staffing has remained flat since then, though its number of administrators continued to increase by another 4 percent. Bentley said it has 11 fewer administrators today than it did in 2009.
But Ginsberg said, “Consumers are paying more and getting less in terms of student contact with faculty, which is presumably why they’re there. You don’t send kids to college to work with the dean.”
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting ( www.necir-bu.org ) is a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom based at Boston University and supprted in part by The Eagle-Tribune and other Massachusetts newspapers and other media outlets.