Given all the attention that adjunctification and administrative bloat have been getting recently, we’ll explore university staffing this week. For now, we’re looking at full time staff for colleges that have data going back to 1987-1988. This includes the total number of “faculty”, “professional” staff, and “executive, administrative, and managerial”* staff over time.* Surprisingly only 266 (out of 7,000+) institutions have staffing and enrollment data from 1987-1988 to 2010-2011.**
This chart illustrates two main points. First, the number of full time faculty is rising, with faculty now outnumbering the other categories of workers. Second, the growth in professional staff has been explosive, doubling in less than a quarter century.
The second chart accounts for changes in student enrollment and shows rescaled full time employees per student by category. While less intuitive, this process allows us to account for changes in enrollment as well as to see relative changes among categories much more clearly.
The rescaling simply divided each category by the number of students needed to set the 1987-1988 values equal to one. For faculty, this was 19 students (i.e., in 1987-1988, there was one full time faculty for every 19 students), whereas for professional staff, it was 32, and for executive, administrative, and managerial staff, it was 89.
The chart shows that the recent recession has led to large declines in staffing per student in all three categories. Since the first chart showed that total staffing continued to grow, this must be due to higher enrollments. Indeed, median enrollment among our 266 colleges increased by almost 300 students, and the mean increased by almost 1,000 students.
Interestingly, faculty per student and executive, administrative, and managerial staff per student tracked each other very closely from 1987-1988 to 2001-2002, but then began to diverge.
The recent sharp declines in professional staff and executive, administrative, and managerial staff per student merely returned us to levels we last roughly saw in 2005-2006 and 1999-2000 respectively. In contrast, 2010-2011 had the fewest full time faculty per student of the entire period, which, given the educational missions of these colleges, is a most troubling finding.
**IPEDS has staffing data by campus going back to 1987-1988, but only for every other year from 1987-1988 to 2000-2001, so we used linear interpolation to estimate values for missing years.