The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

August 24, 2010
Study suggests UC Davis administration is bloated

Between 1993 and 2007, UC Davis quadrupled the number of administrators on its payroll while reducing its share of instructors and researchers, according to a study of personnel patterns at nearly 200 universities across the nation.

UC Davis officials disputed the findings, saying it mistakenly classified some teachers as administrators.

The Goldwater Institute, which advocates for small government, analyzed the number of employees per 100 students at the top public and private universities.

Overall, it found that even though student enrollment grew, universities did not become more efficient. Instead, most increased the number of employees they had per 100 students, particularly in managerial ranks.

The trend was especially true at UC Davis, says the report, "Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education."

Among the universities studied, UC Davis had the third-highest growth rate in its number of administrators. Administrator ranks grew by 318 percent during the period studied, while the number of instructors and researchers per 100 students shrank by 4.5 percent and the number of clerical workers went down by 38.8 percent, the study shows.

Across all the universities studied, tuition during the period analyzed grew by 66.7 percent, when adjusted for inflation. "The most striking point here is that university spending per student is increasing in real terms, most rapidly in the area of administration," wrote authors Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Jonathan Mills.

"It is not clear why it has cost nearly two-thirds more to administer each student over this 15-year period. We know that universities are hiring many more administrators per student and that they must also be paying those administrators higher salaries."

UC Davis officials responded by saying the university is working on streamlining its bureaucracy. Chancellor Linda Katehi has directed five administrative units to consolidate operations into three shared service centers, Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor Robert Loessberg-Zahl said in a statement. Those changes will save UC Davis between $9 million and $16 million over the next two to four years, he said.

University officials took issue with the Goldwater Institute's definition of "administrator." Loessberg-Zahl said the report wrongly counts computer programmers, engineers, veterinarians, librarians, physicians, nurses and coaches as "administrators."

"Many of the employees that the report classifies and counts as 'administrators' actually are staffers in direct service to UC Davis' core academic mission of teaching, research and public service, and who work in academic departments," said Loessberg-Zahl's statement.

The salaries of many of those employees are paid by research grants from outside funding sources, he said.

"That means that neither the state nor student fees support these employees, who in fact are central to the service and research missions of the university," Loessberg-Zahl said.

- Laurel Rosenhall

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