Forbes Magazine: Colleges Should Cut Down on Administrative Bureaucracy

By on July 16, 2009

A thought-provoking article on Forbes.com documents a significant trend that has taken shape at America’s colleges and universities in recent years: institutions have devoted more and more resources to hiring administrators, in the process building up bloated bureaucracies.

The Forbes article points out that:

Trends in spending make it clear that institutional priorities have shifted, as resources have been reallocated from classroom instruction to paper pushing. According to a recent report from the Delta Cost Project that uses U.S. Department of Education data, between 1995 and 2006 spending growth on student services and administration outpaced growth in expenditure on instruction by a multiple of 2 at the private research colleges, 1.75 at public research colleges and 3.2 at public master’s degree granting colleges.

As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has argued previously in an article available on the National Association of Scholars website, such bloated bureaucratization is part of the problem on campus. Every superfluous administrator hired by a school needs a piece of turf to patrol—and too often, student speech is an inviting target. FIRE Co-founder Harvey Silverglate has also written incisively about the problems of the increased corporatization of the university. As Harvey notes, student rights and academic freedom are too often “sacrificed so that academic administrators can play-act as empire-builders and careerists rather than serve as educators.”

Similarly, the Forbes article argues:

The burgeoning army of college bureaucrats defends this extraordinary growth as necessary to provide consumer-oriented students with an expanded breadth of noninstructional services. Yet this obfuscates the underlying mission of colleges to produce and disseminate knowledge. It is time for higher education to go on a diet.

The full article is well worth a read and is of great interest to FIRE.