North Dakota Is Part Of National Problem With Administrative Bloat In Higher Ed


Government subsidies for higher education, in the form low-interest student loans issued freely to all who ask, have allowed colleges to get away with huge increases in spending. This has manifested itself in a number of ways. Campuses are growing larger and more lavish, as one example, and universities have seriously inflated their payrolls both with compensation levels and the number of staff hired.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, nationally between 2001 and 2011 the number of college administrators hired has grown 50% faster than the number of instructors hired:

Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It’s part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

The University of Minnesota illustrates the trend. Its main Twin Cities campus had the largest share of employees classified as “executive/administrative and managerial” among the 72 “very-high-research” public universities in the 2011-12 academic year, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. Minnesota officials say the figures are misleading because not all schools report administrative spending the same way.

North Dakota, it is sad to say, is on the cutting edge in this trend.

Pay at our universities has increased dramatically. The North Dakota University System’s new chancellor, Hamid Shirvani, got a $120,000/year raise over his predecessor Bill Goetz (Shirvani celebrated by buying himself a Porsche).

Pay for university administrators has gone through the roof as well. The presidents of the state’s two largest universities, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, each saw their pay double from 2001 to 2011, and even the state’s university president who got the smallest pay increase (Bismarck State College) still saw his increase by roughly 25% over that time frame:

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Faculty, too, are raking it in. At NDSU the average full professor has seen a $42,500/year increase in yearly compensation over the last decade, and at UND that increase was $40,200/year. At both universities the average full professor is making right around $100,000/year.

But that’s just pay. Let’s talk administrative bloat. Since the 2003 – 2005 biennium, instructional staff at the state’s universities has grown just 3.5% while administrative staff has grown by 40%:


Keep in mind that, heading into this legislative session, the university system is asking for another 183 full time employees as well as a 14% budget increase.

In other words, they want the bloat to continue. And over the last decade, legislators have been more than willing to let it happen. Since 2003 full time equivalent enrollment in the university system has grown 11.5%, but state appropriations to the university system will have grown 91% (assuming higher ed gets their budget request for the coming biennium):

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And despite this rapid increase in appropriations, tuition has grown rapidly too since 2002, mostly for in-state students:

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In summary, the taxpayers are paying a lot more. The students are paying a lot more. The higher ed payroll has grown dramatically.

But has any of this made higher education in North Dakota better? Has it increased the value of a degree from the ND University System? Not really. But it has made the university system bureaucrats a lot richer.