Universities should change hiring practices

Despite continuously rising tuition, over the past 20 years, universities have increased their higher of support staff at a much hiring rate than their enrollment of students, according to a report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Daniel Bennett, the report’s author, studied data from the U.S. Department of Education on more than 2,782 colleges from 1987 to 2007 and found that colleges and universities had doubled their back-office staff while enrolling only 40 percent more students.

While the report did not draw a direct connection between tuition hikes and the rise in support staff, it concluded that the increased hiring of managers and support personnel qualified as unproductive spending.

Universities should focus more on enrolling students and hiring educators and less on creating support positions. According to the New York Times, many universities have stopped hiring since the recession. Once the economy recovers, universities should not resume their earlier hiring practices.

Some of the new jobs at universities were created to deal with new technologies, but according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, many positions were created in response to higher expectations from students and parents.

Robert A. Sevier, senior vice president for strategy at the higher-education marketing
company Stamats, told the Chronicle that for many students, “the educational experience is increasingly a lifestyle experience.”

While many students expect to get more out of college than an education, universities should not invest so much in creating a social experience. The report also found that the hiring of instructors increased by only 50 percent. If universities want to improve the educational experience, why aren’t they hiring more teachers? During the 20-year period studied the ratio of managers and support staff to students rose by 34 percent, while the ratio of instructors to students rose just 10 percent.

Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said to the Times that “on a case-by-case basis, many of these hiring decisions might be good ones, but overall, it’s not a sustainable trend.”

“At a time when we’re trying to do something to hold down tuition increases, this gives us a pretty good clue where we ought to be looking,” Callan said. “And it does raise questions about the conventional wisdom that you can’t do anything to control tuition without affecting academic quality.”

In the future, universities should cut down the size of their support staffs. Streamlining the staff will help universities safe money and increase productivity, and may lead to lower tuition for students.