The North Dakota University System Has An Administrative Bloat Problem


Since the 2003-2005 biennium, enrollment in the North Dakota University System has grown at a rate of about 2.1 percent per biennium. In terms of full time equivalent students, that’s an increase of about 3,147 through the current biennium.

Really, not much of an increase, but taxpayer appropriations to the university system has skyrocketed (as has tuition). During that same window of time, total appropriations to the university system have increased by more than half a billion dollars, or $548.6 million.

That’s a lot of money to education just a few thousand more students (yet somehow the university system still has over $800 million in deferred maintenance, go figure). .

So where is all the money going? Revenues to the university system – both taxpayer dollars and ever-increasing tuition – are growing one heck of a lot faster than enrollment is.

By way of explanation, I’m fond of posting this graphic showing the growth in instructional staff at the universities (people actually in the classrooms engaged in education) and non-instructional staff (administrators, maintenance staff, etc.).

The comparison is pretty shocking:


The university system doesn’t like these numbers, though. In a posting on a blog they started to rebut, they argue that comparing full time equivalent employees is a better metric, and they produce their own chart to put a better spin on the situation.

But the facts don’t. Administrative hiring has outpaced instructional hiring by a lot. And we don’t have to just trust my numbers. One of the largest teachers unions in the nation tracks these numbers as well, and they look at full time equivalent employees.

And they find the same trend I do.

According to the National Education Association’s annual Ranking of the States, non-instructional staffing has been trending up while instructional staffing is trending down:


I pulled the data from the reports posted on the NEA’s website (their last report was released in March of this year). They measure FTE staff per 10,000 population. I’m not sure why, and North Dakota’s boom in population is probably dampening the trend a bit, but overall this is a look at the numbers from another perspective which reveals the problem we’ve been talking about all the time.

On campus, the number of staff who don’t teach is growing while the number who do teach is shrinking.

And that’s not surprising, given how the mission of the universities seems to have shifted from serving students to bureaucratic empire building.