You Know It's Bad When Even The Fargo Forum Isn't Covering Up For Higher Ed

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Over the weekend we saw headlines regarding some very real problems with payroll bloat in the North Dakota University System. I’ve been writing about this issue for some time now, noting that non-instructional payroll has exploded over the last decade while the payroll for instructional staff has, like enrollment, remained largely stagnant.

This is a serious problem, and what’s surprising is that North Dakota’s largest newspaper the Fargo Forum – usually a bottomless well of apologism for the North Dakota University System – is taking this issue seriously.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]You know things are bad when even the Fargo Forum editorial can’t find a way to explain higher education’s problems away.[/mks_pullquote]

“Although the state’s campuses have steadily added non-instructional staff over the past decade, reaching 91 per 10,000 residents, the ratio of instructional staff has been relatively stagnant at about 46 per 10,000 residents,” the Forum editorial board writes. “There’s something very wrong about those trend lines. Teaching is supposed to be what a college or university is all about. Classroom staff, not administration and support staff, should be given top priority. Staffing trends should reflect those priorities.”

Wow. You know things are bad when even the Fargo Forum editorial can’t find a way to explain higher education’s problems away.

Welcome to the party, guys.

The thing is, non-instructional payroll bloat is just a symptom of the overall problem at the university which is poor priorities. The universities have prioritized unceasing campus expansion, athletics, and bureaucratic empire building over serving the state and students.

Students have become merely cover to do other things like run sports programs and run crony capitalism ventures.

If students were the priority at our universities this payroll trend, and myriad other problems at the universities, wouldn’t exist.

Rob Port is the editor of, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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