Yesterday North Dakota University System Vice Chancellor Lisa Feldner presented some data to lawmakers yesterday which doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of the priorities at our state’s public universities.
Grand Forks Herald reporter Anna Burleson has a good write up of the meeting, but let me highlight some of the data about administrative and faculty hiring and pay she collected from Legislative Council.
The first is that that the number of administrative positions at our universities has grown, increasing 13 percent from 2005 to 2015. Yet despite modest increases in full time equivalent enrollment (8.5 percent from the 2005-2007 biennium to present), the number of faculty at the schools has gone down by 10 percent:
As for pay, the administrators have been raking it in. For many categories the increase in mean pay has increased by triple digits over the last decade:
But while the administrators have been enjoying big pay increases, shrinking number of people engaged in actually educating the students have seen more modest increases in their pay:
Feldner did urge some caution when evaluating these numbers, noting that there are no hard and fast rules for how universities classify positions, making it difficult to get a true picture of trends. “Feldner said the definitions of what an administrator or staff member is can vary from campus to campus,” Burleson reports. “Student-to-employee ratios are also hard to explain, Feldner said, because universities can classify what is essentially the same employee under whatever division they choose, making it hard to compare.”
That the university system has neglected uniform reporting standards for these extremely important metrics is troubling, and a poor commentary on the priorities of past leadership.
But even as imperfect as these numbers are, what they tell us about the on-campus priorities at these universities is nothing good, but unsurprising.
I don’t think we need a bunch of data to tell us that these schools have been drifting away from their core mission of serving the academic needs of North Dakota’s students.