Monday, August 17, 2009

More on administrative bloat at UNC

Another front page story in the N&O about administrative expenses growing more rapidly than educational expenses in the UNC system. One graphic shows a tremendous increase in the number of vice-chancellors and vice-provosts throughout the system in the last five years; at some campuses, these numbers have doubled.

In an earlier post, I noted that these factors would explain at least some of the increased expenditures on administration: growth in outside contracts and grants for research, an expanded mission for the university (e.g., economic development) and increased regulation of universities by various levels of government. Subsequently I have learned of one other factor: as a result of changes in job definitions, some positions that were previously classified as academic were reclassified as administrative. The dividing line between these two areas is often vague -- I am a dean but I still teach and do research. I certainly do much more than supervise my direct reports.

After reading today's N&O piece, I realized there is another factor driving the increase in upper level administration -- the need to retain key personnel in jobs where state regulations restrict the wage to be below the market clearing level. This has been a particular issue for IT occupations, where the statewide average wage is well below the compensation needed to compete in the labor markets in the state's largest urban areas. If you cannot raise the salary, you upgrade the job so that you can pay what is needed to get the work done.

I hope that all of the UNC system chancellors are looking for cost saving opportunities just like the deans and department heads have been doing in the College of Management. But be forewarned: today's headlines vastly overstate the savings that will be obtained from administrative cutbacks.

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