Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Growth Rates in Adminstrative Versus Faculty Position--A View From the Operational Level

I have been speaking to the issue that many people refer to as "administrative bloat."

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

During this year our University Planning Committee has been looking at the issue of administrative hiring and its relationship to faculty hiring.  This post presents their preliminary findings.  I hope it can add to the discussion about the relationship between administrative and faculty hiring hiring, including its effects on the move toward changing the hiring mix between contract and tenured packages.  Administrative choices in firing may well produce "facts" that appear to make inevitable faculty hiring choices that might neither be inevitable or factual.



Growth Rates in Administrative Versus Faculty
Positions:  A Comparison at the College and Campus Level

There has been much discussion about the problem of “administrative bloat” in recent months at several Big Ten institutions including Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska.  After an initial investigation by the Purdue Faculty Senate, the Board of Trustees at that institution charged their administration with doing an in-depth study of the growth in administrative vs. faculty positions.  The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a major story about this issue at Nebraska, where it was found that the rate of administrative and staff positions was not grow faster than faculty positions.

Penn State has for many years had reputation for efficiency and a fairly lean administrative structure relative to many peer institutions.  The central administration has tried to control cost increases through strategies including regular recycling of permanent budget funds back to the central budget and the recent work of the Core Council.  However, given the prominence provided to administrative bloat at our peer institutions both by their Faulty Senates and by the news media as the public struggles with the reality of higher tuition costs at the same time that real wages for much of the population has been falling, it is appropriate for the Penn State Faculty Senate to examine the rates of growth of administrative and staff positions in relation to the growth in faculty positions, tying both to changes in student numbers across the units of the University.

The reasons for growth or shrinkage of faculty and/or administrative/staff positions at different units at different locations across the University are very complex and beyond the scope of this study.  These causes may well be an appropriate topic for a future study, but we are not attempting to explain the changes in this report, we are only pointing out trends.  This report is limited to examining the change in numbers of students, and full-time equivalent positions of standing faculty appointments, total academic appointments including standing faculty, fixed term faculty, and graduate assistants, and administrative/staff appointments. 

We have not attempted to examine changes in the number of administrative positions separate from staff positions or the changes in number of central administrative or staff positions, this report only examines the number of positions associated with individual campuses and colleges.  The data we had access to for this report did not include information about the central administration and did not separate administrative positions from staff positions.  We are looking for additional data and plan on examining these issues in a future report. 

We are reporting the changes in these numbers between the 2002-2003 and the 2011-2012 academic years.  We have calculated ratios of standing faculty to all academic appointments, standing faculty to administrative staff appointments, all academic appointments to administrative staff.  We have also calculated the ratios of students to standing faculty, administrative appointments, and administrative staff appointments for those years and have computed the percent changes in these numbers.  All of these calculations have been done individually for each University Park college, each campus, University Park colleges overall, the University College campuses overall, and the Commonwealth campuses overall (which include both the University College campuses along with the “stand-alone: campus-colleges.  Since student and faculty/staff numbers for the School of Nursing were included within the numbers for the College of Health and Human Development until the 2008-2009 academic year, we have decide that for the purpose of this report to consider theses units together.  In a similar way, 38 administrative/staff FTE’s were added to the 2002-2003 numbers for the College of Arts and Architecture in order to allow a fair comparison with 2011-2012, where the numbers for that college included administrators and staff from what had previously been a unit called University Art Services, made up of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Palmer Museum of Art.

Student numbers for this study come from the 10 Year Historical Enrollment by Location data for Fall 2002 and Fall 2011.  We used the Human Resources Full-Time Equivalents (FTE)’s data for “All Functions, General Funds Only.”  The reasoning for this decision was to eliminate changes due to increases or decreases in categories such as research funding.  Since we were trying to tie the changes in faculty and staff numbers to student numbers, positions funded out of research dollars would be a confusing and unnecessary complication.  The data examined did not include the central administration and staff at University Park that is not park of individual colleges.  This is possibly a major weakness in this report, but the data available to us did not include these numbers.

Following are descriptions of the growth or shrinkage in the indicators measured in this report.  No attempt was made to explain the reasons behind these changes.

Students (Data found in Tables 1 and 2)

The total enrollment at the University including the World Campus was up a substantial 16.2%, during the ten year period covered in this study but if the World Campus ((which were not reported separately in 2002) is removed from the data, that number shrinks to only a 3.8% rise.    The percentage increase is somewhat higher if the Colleges of Medicine and Law, Penn College, and Great Valley are removed from the equation, with the change for University Park and the other campuses rising by 6.0%.  The University Park campus experienced a 9.0% increase in student numbers with the growth among students enrolled in the University Park Colleges even greater at 10.8%.  The number of UP students not associated with one of the colleges dropped somewhat, showing a 5.0% decrease.  The change among UP Colleges has been uneven, with four colleges dropping in enrollment (Arts and Architecture, Business, Communications, and Education) and the other seven colleges increasing.  The college suffering the largest drop was Education, losing 17.8% in student numbers, and the largest growth was by Earth and Mineral Sciences, up an amazing 78.5%.  Enrollment change at the Commonwealth Campuses was up overall a modest 0.5%, with substantial growth at the five stand-alone campus-colleges, but a substantial drop (13.0%) at the University College Campuses.  The campuses enjoying the greatest percent growth was Harrisburg (31.0%) followed by Lehigh Valley (28.3%).  Besides Lehigh Valley, only two other campuses out of the fourteen University College campuses increased enrollment over this period (Mont Alto and Beaver). 

 Academic Standing Faculty (Data shown in Tables 1 and 2)

The drop in Standing faculty FTE’s was a consistent 3.8% both at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses during this time period time period.  The numbers actually grew substantially at the stand-alone campus-colleges, but decreased by 20.1% at the University College campuses.  In general, campuses which grew in student numbers also grew in numbers of standing faculty while those that fell in student numbers decreased in standing faculty.  University Park of course was a major exception to that rule, with a 9.0% growth in students but a 3.8% drop in standing faculty.  There was great variation among University Park colleges, ranging from a drop of 28.5% in Health and Human Development (where there was a 43.5% increase in student numbers) to Education, with an 8.1% increase in standing faculty (even though there was a 17.8% decrease in students).  There were several growth campuses where the numbers were also very curious, with trends in different directions.  Altoona grew in students by 5.7%, but grew in standing faculty by 20.5%, whereas Harrisburg, with a student growth of 31.1% only grew 12.8% in standing faculty.  The three University College locations that grew in student numbers nevertheless shrank in standing faculty.  Beaver, which grew by 10.0% in students, shrank by 10.0% in standing faculty, at Mont Alto, an 8.4% rise in students was met with a 23.3% decrease in standing faculty, and the most incongruent change of all was at Lehigh Valley where the student numbers grew by 28.3%, but the standing faculty shrank by 24.7%.  Clearly the change in standing faculty among units does not correlate well with the change in student numbers.  Data on student to faculty ratios presented later in this report also illustrate this fact.

Total Academic Appointments (Data shown in Tables 1 and 2)

 The total number of academic FTE’s across the university, including standing faculty, fixed term faculty (including both full and part time appointments) and graduate assistants dropped by 6.0%.  The decrease was smaller (1.5%) at University Park and larger (13.2%) at the Commonwealth Campuses.  This trend was especially strong at the University College campuses with a drop among those fourteen locations of 23.6%.  There were a few colleges at University Park which fell in student numbers but rose in total academic FTE’s.  A standout along these lines was Communications, which dropped by 4.4% in student numbers but rose by 19.6% in total academic FTE’s.  Conversely, HHD gained 43.5% in student numbers but dropped by 18.7% in total academic FTE’s.  Among the campuses, only Erie and Berks increased in total academic FTE’s.  Both campuses also showed double-digit increases in student numbers.  The two campuses with largest gains in students, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley, both decreased in academic FTE’s.  Lehigh Valley was the standout with a 28.3% rise in student numbers but a decrease of 24.5% in total academic FTE’s.

Administrative/Staff Appointments (Data shown in Tables 1 and 2)

A weakness of this data is that staff and administrators are not separated out, so it cannot be discerned whether Penn State is increasing or decreasing in numbers of administrators.  The trends in changes in numbers of Administrative/Staff appointments are quite different that those of faculty, either standing or fixed–term.  Seven of the eleven University Park colleges increased in this category, and six of the nineteen commonwealth campuses also increased administrative/staff numbers.  All six campuses that reduced their FTE’s in this category were University College campuses with mostly greatly shrinking student numbers.  There was not a single campus where faculty either grew faster than administrative/staff positions or in the alternative, shrank less.   All campuses (and also most colleges at University Park) grew their administrative/staff numbers faster than academic appointments.  At University Park the standout college in this trend was Information Sciences and Technology, which grew administrative/staff FTE’s by 50.8%.  Among the commonwealth campuses, the overall the number of administrative/staff positions increased by12.2% during this period (a period where academic FTE’s dropped by 13.2%).  Most of the increase in administrative/staff FTE’s was concentrated at the stand-alone campus-colleges.  The data for the University College campuses was somewhat different, with only a 2.6% increase in administrative/staff FTE’s (although this corresponds to a decrease of 13.0% in students and 23.6% in total academic FTE’s).

Ratio of Standing Faculty FTE’s to Total Academic FTE’s  (Data shown in Tables 3 and 4)

This result was the most surprising in the report.  The change in Standing Faculty to Total Academic FTE’s was positive for the University overall, for the Commonwealth Campuses, and even for University College.  Only at University Park did it drop.  There, the ratios in 2011-2012 ranged from 0.35 in Communications to 0.65 in Arts and Architecture.  Overall, at University Park the ratio changed from 0.49 in 2002-2003 to 0.48 in 2011-2012.  For the Commonwealth Campuses, the ratio changed from 0.46 to 0.52.  As expected, the ratios were lower at the University College Campuses, but not by much.  The ratio there changed from 0.43 to 0.46.  As usual for data in this report, the ratios for the various campuses varied greatly.  In 2011-2012 they varied from 0.34 at Shenango to 0.66 at Harrisburg.

Ratio of Standing Faculty FTE’s to Administrative/Staff FTE’s (Data shown in Tables 3 and 4)

This ratio dropped at all colleges and locations except for Education, which had a gain of 20.3% (to a ratio of 1.22), Science, which gained 1.8% (to 1.26), and Harrisburg, which gained 1.0% (to 0.82).  University Park overall had much higher ratios in both years (0.91 in 2011-2012) than the Commonwealth Campuses  (0.66 in 2011-2012).  University College had an even lower ratio than Commonwealth Campuses overall at 0.60 in 2011-2012. University Park overall dropped by 6.3% and the University overall dropped by 8.2%

Ratio of Total Academic FTE’s to Administrative/Staff FTE’s (Data shown in Tables 3 and 4)

The ratio of Total Academic FTE’s to Administrative/Staff FTE’s dropped by 10.7% university-wide.  The change was uneven, with a 1.8% drop at UP and a 22.7% drop for the Commonwealth Campuses.  This ratio for University College dropped even more than the campuses overall, with a change of -25.5%.  The ratio was negative for every campus, but at University Park four colleges (Agriculture, Communications, Education, and Science) had positive changes in the ratio.

Students Headcount to Standing Faculty FTE’s (Data shown in Tables 5 and 6)

The Student to Standing Faculty ratio at University Park went from 27.3 in 2002-2003 to 30.9 in 2011-2012.  For the UP colleges alone separated from other areas, the ratio changed from 24.2 to 27.9.  These ratios varied widely from college to college, with the numbers in 2011-2012 varying from 18.0 for Agriculture to 89.0 for Communications.  Of course these numbers are skewed due to the relative load of general education courses taught by the various colleges.  At the Commonwealth Campuses, the ratios are higher; they went from 36.5 in 2002-2003 to 38.3 in 2011-2012.  The ratios were still higher when considering only the University College campuses, which went from 37.4 in 2002-2003 to 40.1 in 2011-2012.  The ratios varied considerably between campuses, with Greater Allegheny at the low end in 2011-2012 at 29.1 and Schuylkill at the high end at 51.6.  These numbers do not necessarily mean that students at the campuses have higher average numbers of students in a class than at University Park.  To fully analyze this data, one would need to take average teaching loads into account, which are much higher at the campuses that at University Park for standing faculty.

Student Headcount to Total Academic FTE’s (Data shown in Tables 5 and 6)

These ratios also went up at all locations.  At University Park, the overall ratio went from 13.5 in 2002-2003 to 14.9 in 2011-2012.  If only the college numbers at University Park are calculated, the ratio changed from 11.9 to 13.4.  Just as with Standing Faculty ratios, these ratios also varied widely from college to college, with the numbers in 2011-2012 varying from 9.4 for Agriculture to 31.6 for Communications.  These numbers are also skewed due to the relative load of general education courses taught by the various colleges.  At the Commonwealth Campuses, the ratios are higher, changing from 17.0 in 2002-2003 to 19.6 in 2011-2012.  Unlike the data for students to standing faculty, the University College campuses had lower ratios than the Commonwealth Campuses overall, going from 16.1 in 2002-2003 to 18.3 in 2011 -2012.  Once again the ratios varied considerably between campuses, with Fayette at the low end in 2011-2012 at 14.2 and Abington at the high end at 28.4.  These numbers do not necessarily mean that classes at the campuses have a higher average number of students.  To properly analyze what these numbers mean at various colleges and campuses, one would need to take into account teaching loads per faculty member.

Student Headcount to Administrative/Staff FTE’s (Data shown in Tables 5 and 6)

Unlike the student to faculty ratios, the student to administrative/staff ratio has become more similar when comparing the campuses to University Park.  At University Park, there are now more students per administrative/staff member, with the ratio for the UP colleges overall going from 22.9 in 2002-2003 to 25.4 in 2011-2012.  If other areas of University Park are included in the calculations, the numbers go from 25.9 in 2002-2003 to 28.1 in 2011-2012.  A much different trend has occurred at the Commonwealth Campuses, with the ratio going from 28.2 in 2002-2003 to 25.3 in 2011-2012, meaning the ratios are now almost the same at University Park compared to the campuses.  The University College drop has been steeper, going from 28.3 in 2002-2003 (higher than at UP or the campus-colleges) to 24.0 in 2011-2012 (lower than UP or the campus-colleges).  This is likely due to a combination of dropping student numbers at the University College campuses relative to other locations and increased services at those small campuses.


As stated earlier, this report does not in general attempt to explain the various trends in relative numbers of standing faculty, total academic appointments, or administrative staff appointments.  The purpose of the report is simply to show the trends and set the groundwork for future study if necessary. The data reported herein clearly show a trend of decreasing numbers of faculty at most colleges and locations relative to numbers of administrators and staff.  Surprisingly, the data also show that contrary to beliefs of most faculty, the ratio of standing faculty FTE's compared to total academic FTE's has increased, not decreased over the period There may be good reasons for these trends.  Another caveat to this report is that both student numbers and faculty and administrative/staff FTE’s change quite a bit from year to year, especially within units, therefore the numbers could look different if different starting and finishing years are chosen.  We chose to use the earliest and latest data readily available to us and did not attempt to pick years that would skew results one way or the other. 




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