In the long-running debate over how many administrators are too many, two economic researchers believe they have identified an ideal ratio. For colleges to operate most effectively, they say, each institution should employ three tenured or tenure-track faculty for every one full-time administrator.
What the ratio is now is difficult to say, though most colleges probably would have to hire significantly more faculty or pare back on administrators if they wanted to meet a three-to-one goal. The numbers are fuzzy and inconsistent because universities report their own data. Different institutions categorize jobs differently, and the ways they choose to count positions that blend teaching and administrative duties further complicate the data. When researchers talk about “administrators,” they can never be sure exactly which employees they are including. Sometimes colleges count librarians, for example, as administrators, and sometimes they do not.
In their recent study, Robert E. Martin, a professor emeritus of economics at Centre College, and R. Carter Hill, a professor of economics at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, attempted to quantify the factors that drive costs at 137 public research institutions. They describe their findings in a working paper titled “Measuring Baumol and Bowen Effects in Public Research Universities,” released in October.
In their analysis of federal data from 1987 to 2008, the researchers calculated that the nationwide ratio was tilted toward administrators, with two full-time administrators for every one tenured or tenure-track faculty member. But their analysis showed, they said, that a ratio of three faculty to one administrator would be the most cost-effective balance for universities. <Read more.>