“Demands and Expectations” of Waste

Earlier this month the College Guide posted information about a recent report arguing that the high cost of college has a lot to do with vast increases in the cost of academic administration, or “administrative bloat,” as the term goes. “Unlike almost every other growing industry, higher education has not become more efficient,” complains the Goldwater Institute, which published the report.

Some people beg to disagree. According to William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, some schools are “examples of responsible stewardship.” As Kirwan writes in the Baltimore Sun:

The argument leading to the assessment of university “bloat” was reached through a flawed process.

The original report… included two separate categories as constituting administrative employees. The categories “Executive, Administrative, and Managerial” and “Other Professional (Support/Service)” were lumped together, inflating the number of employees the report considered to be administrative.

Problem, say Kirwan, is that these other professionals are not really administrators, because:

And given that this category includes network systems analysts, computer support specialists, financial aid counselors, academic advisers, librarians, registered nurses, therapists, and others, I am not as inclined to label these men and women as “administrative bloat.” In fact, given the explosion in technology requirements, the ramping up of research activities, and the growth in demand for student services, the increase in professional support and professional service positions reflects the demands of the marketplace and the expectations of students and their parents.

This is a good point. It’s not like everything the Goldwater Institute targeted was exactly a $300,000 “executive vice president for university advancement” or some such thing.

But then, no one argued that administrative bloat came from actual corruption. Just because the new positions reflect the “demands of the marketplace and the expectations of students and their parents” doesn’t mean this is an efficient use of money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer