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Governance & Administration

An Analysis of Administrative Growth at OSU - summary

by SM

The growth of university administrations has been a major concern nationwide for nearly forty years. Recently Ohio State has been singled out in a numerous news articles, institutional studies, and academic journals as being one of the worst offenders in this category. One article's headline: "What makes Ohio State [University] the most unequal public university in the country?", is followed by an extensive discussion purporting to answer that question.

We undertook this analysis to ascertain if the evidence currently available justifies this dubious distinction, and determine to what extent the situation has changed since the advent of President Drake's tenure. The 2014 article "Losing Focus" provides an excellent summary of the chronic problem of administrative growth (or bloat) as a national phenomenon. To get a more detailed, quantitative picture of how OSU has fared, and how it compares to peer institutions, we present data for 59 members of the American Association of Universities (AAU), of which OSU is a member. Our sources were i) the Higher Education Data Center (HEDC) for the period 2003 - 2013, and ii) the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the more recent period 2012-2015.

By nearly all metrics, we found that OSU fares poorly to very poorly in comparison to its AAU institutional peers. Among some of the most striking statistics:

*) During the period 2007-2013 (coinciding with Gordon Gee's 2nd tenure as OSU's President), OSU's combined Executive, Administrative, and Managerial (EAM) staffing experienced a more than four-fold growth, going from slightly less than 1,000 to nearly 4,000 during the six-year period. None of the other 58 institutions exhibited an increase in EAM staffing anywhere near this magnitude.

*) In contrast, during the same period staffing at OSU by regular faculty declined, even in the face of a significant increase in student enrollment.

*) During the more recent period of 2012-2015, EAM staffing at OSU experienced a much lower (though still positive) growth rate.

*) In terms of managerial outlay, OSU spends over 200 million dollars a year - second only to Harvard among all 59 AAU institutions for which comparative data is available. Managerial costs are increasing annually at nearly 5%, well above the percentage increase in total outlay for non-medical instruction.

*) Management costs at OSU have represented 38% of the total non-instructional costs for the period 2012 - 2015, nearly twice the AAU average and higher than any other AAU institution except Tulane (the lowest internationally-ranked of all 59 institutions we studied).

*) Our findings are in agreement with those of the Autumn 2016 Report prepared by the University Senate's Faculty Benefits and Compensation Committee, who arrived at a similar (though less quantified) picture using the Delta Cost Project's education database.

Conclusion: Although there has been a recent slowing of the growth rate in administrative staffing and compensation, and possibly increased awareness of the negative effects they have had on OSU's international academic standing and faculty morale, the chronic issues of administrative bloat and executive (over)compensation continue to be serious concerns that need to be addressed with much more urgency than they have been up until this time.

Link to full article on Administrative Issues Page: An Analysis of Administrative Growth at OSU

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