Full-time faculty loses out to administrative and professional staff when it comes to higher-education spending in Michigan, a Free Press review of new data shows.
The data show the ranks of administrators and professional staff at the state's public and private colleges and universities are growing while the ratio of full-time faculty per thousand students is declining. Both four-year and two-year schools are increasingly turning to part-time or temporary instructors to fill faculty ranks.
¦ Database: Find out how staffing levels have changed at colleges and universities nationwide
The report comes in the middle of a decade in which Michigan has seen spiraling tuition costs and massive cuts in state aid to higher education. The average student loan debt has been climbing as well, reaching nearly $29,000, according to federal statistics.
The increase in professional staff - largely student service-related jobs - and the decrease in faculty mirror what is happening across the nation, but Michigan is above the national average in both categories.
The data was released last week by the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit organization that studies issues related to college affordability. It is based on Education Department data showing employment changes at different types of colleges and universities from 2004 to 2012.
There are some colleges that dispute the numbers in the report. For example, Eastern Michigan University is listed as having a nearly 100% growth in the rate of administrators per 1,000 students. Spokesman Geoff Larcom said the federal definition of who is an administrator changed going into 2012. He also said that at EMU, academic department heads are counted as administrators under the faculty contract, while at at many other schools, they are counted as faculty. According to the report, EMU had 4.3 administrators per 1,000 students in 2004 and is now at 8.4 per 1,000.
Some local schools bucked the trend slightly. At Wayne State University, full-time faculty went up from 74.9 per thousand students in 2004 to 77.3 per thousand students. However, WSU did see an increase in professional staff, going from 82.3 per thousand students in 2004 to 112.5 per thousand.
The new report, which also documents a rise in part-time or temporary instructors alongside declines in full-time faculty hires, suggests that many of the new student-services jobs have taken over tasks that once fell to faculty, such as academic advising, career guidance and disciplinary actions.
"Investments that directly support student success are wise if they lead to improved learning and degree outcomes," the report says.
However, there are those who question the spending.
"My daughter is getting great advice from the career center," said Mario Williams, 57, of Novi, whose daughter graduated last spring from Wayne State University. "But I don't think that advice will be any good if she doesn't get a good education from good professors. I think that's where (universities) would be sinking money into."
The Michigan data, when looking at the median values, shows:
¦ The rate of full-time faculty per 1,000 students dropped 4%, a larger decline than the U.S. rate.
¦ The rate of part-time faculty per 1,000 students enrolled increased by 10%, a larger increase than the U.S. rate.
¦ The rate of executive, management and administrator per 1,000 students increased 9%, a larger increase than the U.S. rate. The U.S. median college/university showed a decline (-1%) between 2004 and 2012.
¦ The rate of professional staff per 1,000 students enrolled increased 20%, a larger increase than the U.S. rate.
¦ In Michigan, the rate of non-professional staff per 1,000 students enrolled dropped 16%, a larger decrease than the U.S. rate.
The increase in administrative and professional staff is largely due to three areas - career services, administrating grants and working to turn university research into businesses, said Michael Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.
"Professors are not always the best person to take an idea into a marketplace, or even get it ready for a private-sector company to grab and use," he wrote in an e-mail to the Free Press. "Universities have been adding staff to help bring those ideas to market and turn them into jobs.
"All of this is to say universities have changed to meet the needs of their customers and the state. Adding administrators is the smart way to do that."
Grand Valley State University has the highest increase of any four-year Michigan public universities in the rate of professionals per 1,000 students - an increase of 92%.
There's a simple reason for that, said Matt McLogan, the school's vice president for university relations.
"Grand Valley's enrollment has grown by 50% in the past 12 years to 24,500; the number of degrees awarded annually has grown by 100%, and the number of students living on campus has increased by 20%. Providing services to these additional students requires additional staff. We're No. 1 on the list you asked about, and No. 1 on the enrollment growth chart. In other words, the latter produced the former."
Other reports have contended that spending on instruction has been scaled back while spending on administrative jobs has increased. A 2010 analysis by the Goldwater Institute of nearly 200 universities, many of them public flagships that conduct research, found that between 1993 and 2007, inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student rose 61% while instructional spending per student rose 39%. A 2012 Wall Street Journal analysis of more than a decade of salary and employment data at the University of Minnesota found a similar pattern.
Arizona State University President Michael Crow told the Arizona Republic newspaper that the Goldwater Institute's methodology is flawed. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said the Wall Street Journal story "did not report that despite stunning state disinvestment, the university is more productive than at any time in recent history."
They argue that more administrative support is necessary because operations ranging from fund-raising to complying with federal regulations, have grown increasingly complex.
But University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene, author of the Goldwater report, said that's part of the problem.
"It's not unreasonable to provide counseling (or other services) to students, but the question is: How much of that is what the university is supposed to be doing?" he said. "Someone has to pay for all that. Universities have lost sight of their primary mission of research and teaching. They have become nonprofit conglomerates."
USA TODAY writer Mary Beth Marklein contributed to this report.