The faculty lounges, and administrators bloat

6/8/2011: The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For by WSJ editor Naomi Schaefer Riley is currently getting a lot of attention. has a interesting summary and interview, by Dan Berrett. The discussion is pretty lively too.

Q: The title and subtitle together imply that the faculty is the chief force driving up the cost of college. But you also cite research by the Delta Project that shows that colleges have increased their non-instructional spending more than their instructional spending — and you acknowledge that professors were not the ones choosing to spend the money this way. If you had to assign rough percentages or rankings to the various reasons that, as your subtitle says, students don’t get the college education they paid for, what would they be?

A: I don’t mean to nitpick but in the title I’m blaming the faculty for not giving the students a good education, not for driving up the costs of that education. I’d say the bulk of the blame for the cost (let’s say more than half) goes to our third-party payer system of financial aid. Every time the federal government adds money to what they will kick in for student tuition, colleges jack up their prices. Administrative bloat probably accounts for another quarter of the blame. …

Do any UO departments still have faculty lounges? Graduate student common rooms? Undergraduate common rooms? Or has that all been contracted out to Cafe Roma?

The Delta Project data on costs should have the data for 2009-2010 posted in a few weeks, that will give us an update on Provost Bean’s efforts to promote administrative bloat. Last time we looked, bloat was doing fabulously:

7/30/2010: More from “The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability” and their online database of the federally required reports to IPEDS.  Looking at UO’s spending per student FTE compared to Carnegie Public Research university averages, for 2008. We spend:

  • $2,347 on Central administration. 96% of the average
  • $8,850 on Instruction. 91% of the average
  • $1,937 on Academic support: 70% of the average
  • $3,521 on Research. 63% of the average

So UO spends about $70 million on research. (The measure excludes research funded by departments – e.g. when faculty spend time on research on regular pay.) The internal “big ideas” initiative that Provost Bean announced last year was an internal competition for a total of $250,000:

The 2009 Academic Plan created the Phased Focus process implemented by a series of Big Ideas to power the University to the next level.  In Spring, 2009, a 15 person faculty committee chose the first set of Big Ideas from 28 submissions.  These five interdisciplinary teams were each funded with $50,000 from carryover in the Provost’s Office budget from FY09, and launched in July, 2009. …

This moves us from 63% to 63.25% of what the average public research university spends per student. Well, it would if it were recurring, actually it’s one-shot. In comparison, here’s what has happened to administrative spending in just one administrative office, Institutional Equity and Diversity:

2006   $429,000
2008   $596,000
2010   $743,000

The $314,000 increase that went to OIED (and this is before their recent hiring increase) is more than the $250,000 for research “big ideas”. And this is just one administrative office. And this happened when the administration was already receiving proportionally far more money than research.

The UO administration talks about wanting to be a top tier, flagship institution and wanting to stay in the AAU. But that is not where they are spending our money.

UO Administrators still believe that UO is “under-administrated”. WTF?

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2 Responses to The faculty lounges, and administrators bloat

  1. Anonymous says:

    The math department has an undergraduate lounge/studyspace and had (until the remodeling of Fenton Hall, I don’t know what’s happening to it now) a graduate student common room. Additionally, the honors college has a student commons (with kitchen!).

    The administrative junk is patently ridiculous, though. Is there any realistic avenue of recourse?

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Honors College lounge and kitchen is a relic of the days in which Chapman Hall housed the Home Economics department. Not exactly Jock Box luxury.