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May 26, 2013

UMass Lowell, Salem State dispute federal figures

Though employment and enrollment data about colleges and universities is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics by the colleges themselves, several said the federal figures showing a disproportionate increase in their number of administrators conflicted with their own records.

But only two disputed that their payrolls had grown faster than their enrollments: the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where a series of mergers and other major changes have made staffing and enrollment difficult to track through time; and Bentley University, which said the reason the federal data showed a doubling of its administrators was that it shifted 65 employees into the “administrative” category as part of a review of job classifications in 2008.

Boston College, which the federal data shows tripled its number of administrators from 157 to 472 while enrollment grew by 12 percent, said its number of administrators actually slightly more than doubled. And Suffolk University, which, according to the federal government, increased its administrative ranks by 921 percent, from 29 to 296, while its enrollment rose at one-tenth that rate, said its actual administrative growth was 313 percent.

Universities and colleges also said the way the government classifies employees has changed since 1987. Salem State University, for instance, whose administrative numbers rose 155 percent, from 42, to 107, while enrollment increased 9 percent, said secretaries had been moved from the “clerical” to the “administrative” category — though the federal data for Salem State shows no decline in the clerical category.

— Jon Marcus, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

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