Universities Manage With Fewer Staff

It’s no secret to anyone that decreased funding has greatly affected education at all levels. College tuition fluctuated, teachers and staff were laid off and a lot schools simply looked and felt different.

In the past few years, public universities were forced to cut costs because of decreased state and federal funding, and slimming down on staff and faculty was the easiest way to do so.

Public universities have significantly slimmed down on professors, administrators and other staff members (per 100 students) since 2001, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The Washington Post cited a report from State Higher Education Executive Officers, which stated that public universities overall had 21.1 staff per 100 students in the 2009-2010 school year, down from 22.9 staff per 100 students in the 2001-2002 school year.

Staffing cuts were the most significant among the roughly 100 schools considered “research, high activity” programs defined in the Carnegie classification. This group of schools is smaller in research scale – but not necessarily size – than the top research schools.

They were hit the hardest. These schools dropped from 45 staff per 100 students in 2001-2002 to 40 staff in 2009-2010. Staffing decreases in other categories of top research schools and non-research schools were not quite as significant as those in the Carnegie classification.

Colleges’ staffing numbers have been very cyclical in the past 10 years. Staffing declined in the early 2000s then shot up from 2003-2008 and declined again in 2009 and 2010 – mainly because of the economic downturn.

Part-time staff has remained fairly steady throughout the last decade, but full-time staff has declined roughly 9%. College employees who were less-directly involved with students such as clerical and administrative workers experienced much larger staffing decreases.

The report focused mainly on data rather than evidence. It simply sought to identify trends rather than reaching conclusions and explanations.

However, it did note that public colleges are facing conflicting pressures. State governments are pressuring them to operate with less money, as the Obama administration and other political figures are pressuring them to increase completion rates and overall quality.

Many education experts argue that students are the ultimate victims of decreased funding, as they cite correlations between funding and quality of education. They argue that as funding decreases, the quality of education also decreases.

Colleges are forced to cut staff members, giving students higher student-to-faculty ratios. Students then get less one-on-one time with professors and less tailored education. Classes become larger and more general – rather than catering to the interests of a small group of students.

This makes it more difficult for students to receive an undergraduate education that focuses on their specific interests and career goals, forcing some of them to pursue further education just to get the learning they need.