Staffing trends at public colleges and universities

A decline in the bloat?

Caught this on the MnSCUfan Twitter feed. (Trying to send a message to legislators?)

It shows how the staff-to-student ratio at public universities has dropped 8 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the report Staffing Trends at Public Colleges and Universities, put out by the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

The main thrust: Increases in enrollment have outpaced additions to staffing. So universities just might be getting leaner — at least in the most recent years.

The Chronicle of Higher Education picks out some details:

Some staffing categories saw bigger drops with respect to enrollment than others. While staff classified as clerical, secretarial, or technical workers saw the largest decline, at 24 percent, staff classified as “other professionals” grew 6 percent across all two- and four-year public institutions.

While faculty-to-student ratios declined on the whole, the role of part-time faculty actually increased. Full-time faculty per student declined by roughly 9 percent from 2001 to 2009, while part-time staff per student grew by 2 percent.

“Institutions are using more adjunct faculty as a way of coping with resource constraint and enrollment growth,” Mr. Lingenfelter said.

One skeptic, however, says the study only looks at the number of staffers — not the money paid out to them — and suspects a section of that staffing might contain some (growing number of) highly paid executives.

Another, the controversial libertarian/conservative Richard Vedder, said the figures might simply reflect a reclassification of employees — though he did find the report “encouraging.”