The growth of an administration

Written by | April 26, 2012

PSU provosts and vice provost positions nearly double over a decade, calling costs into question

Nationwide, there has been a noticeable trend in administrative growth in secondary education. Groups such as the Goldwater Institute and internal university research groups have been examining the impact of this growth over the last 10 years.

The implications, they claim, are that this increase has led to increased university costs. With both sides of the debate heavily invested in this complex issue, the question is: How does Portland State measure up in this national trend?

In 2003, an organizational chart provided by the Office of University Communications showed three vice presidential positions and three associate vice presidential positions at PSU. The 2012 organizational chart shows that there are now five vice presidential positions and 12 associate vice presidental positions. Additionally, in 2003, there were six vice provost positions, compared to the currently listed five vice provost positions.

The university attributes the administrative growth to the university’s overall growth.

“There’s a heck of a lot more of everything: more people, more issues, more things to do, more things to worry about, more staff to manage,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel.

But some university faculty and staff are concerned that the costs of paying administration are becoming too excessive. The PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors has voiced concern over the growth in upper-level administrative and management positions.

Mary King, PSU professor of economics and head negotiator for the AAUP, said, “From 2001 to 2011, PSU’s administrative payroll for positions at the dean’s level and above increased 47 percent—even after adjusting for inflation. Nothing else grew like that around here, and we’ve continued to add positions,” King said.

The administration responded to King by stating that PSU’s budget has doubled in the years between 2001 and 2011. In 2001, the total budget for PSU sat at $204,559,775. The budget for the 2011 school year was reported as $413,081,864.

According to Scott Gallagher,PSU director of communications, said, “our cost of administration has been pretty steady relative to our budget,” and that the administration has grown “proportionally, not excessively.”

The university said that although the budget has increased, the amount spent on administrative costs has stayed relatively the same. Statistics provided by the Oregon University System show a total of 14 percent of PSU’s funding going to administrative costs in 2011. The average administrative costs for other peer universities are projected at 15.5 percent.

According to Wiewel, administrative costs have gone down in the last few years. “The percentage of our total expenditures that goes to administrative costs now is the lowest it has been since 2007. In 2007 it was 13 percent, and now it’s 14 percent,” he said.

“That’s hardly runaway increase,” he added.

Diane Saunders, director of communications for the Oregon University System, added that PSU sits below the national norm for administrative costs when compared to similar institutions.

“In the OUS, we tend to have lower administrative support on our campuses compared to our peers, with the exception of University of Oregon, which tends to be at or slightly above the average of their peers,” she said. “PSU has lower-than-average administrative increases.”

King disagrees. “PSU used to have an extremely lean administrative structure, but I don’t think that’s true anymore, even given recent cuts.”

Over the last 10 years, PSU has seen significant enrollment increases. Wiewel explained that the increase in enrollment, as well as increases in research capabilities and facilities, has added to growth in administrators needed to run the university. “As organizations change, there will be growth on the administrative side,” he said.

According to Saunders, “PSU has had immense enrollment growth over the last 10 years, increasing student enrollment from 20,185 students in 2001 to 28,958 in fall 2011.”

This trend of increased enrollment, according to both Wiewel and Gallagher, has led to increased need in administrative positions, such as financial aid advisors and student counselors, which has added to the cost.

Faculty and staff are also concerned that the growth of administrative positions has been greater than the growth of tenure and full-time faculty positions, while the administration associates the increase in staff with a need for more organization and representation of groups within the university.

Statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics show that in 2010 PSU had 704 full-time employees considered to be in primarily instructional positions. Of employees involved in full-time instruction, research and public service careers, 372 had obtained tenure and 158 of those employees were on tenure track. Statistics also show that in 2010, the number of part-time instructional positions at PSU was higher than full time faculty, with 770 part-time instructional employees.

“Vice-provosts and vice presidents as well as associate and assistant VPs have been proliferating at a much greater rate than have tenure-track and other full-time faculty,” King said.

Saunders explained that increases in faculty would also be necessary to ensure academic success. “Faculty and staff have to increase as well as enrollment increases, or students will be shortchanged in terms of class sizes, getting the classes they need, graduating on time, getting student support services across the board, from financial aid to counseling to registrar, etc.,” Saunders said.

Wiewel explained that the expansion of the university and its administrative resources are commensurate with the university’s overall growth. “If the university continues to grow, we will need more of everything—more professors, more carpenters and more parking enforcement, more everything,” he said.

However, as PSU sees an increase in enrollment, it is facing a $23 million budget deficit for 2014–15. Administrators may face cuts, as the university has asked all units to prepare for a 4 percent budget cut for next year. Some units, such as PSU Finance and Administration, have already decided to cut positions for next year. Wiewel said that for now, he has completed the administrative expansion and reorganization in the university.

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