But at the same time, major system reorganizations are under way in several states. Last week, the University of Wisconsin detailed plans to cut 51 jobs at its system HQ, giving more autonomy to branch campuses and shielding them somewhat from even harsher cuts. Missouri’s university system has cut central-office jobs, while universities in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are all at least starting to collaborate on bulk purchasing.
At Cal State schools, more than two staff and administration jobs have been eliminated for every full-time faculty spot reduction over the last two years.
Linda Katehi, chancellor of the budget-battered University of California-Davis, scanned a campus auditorium full of nervous employees last week, delivering a blunt message along with an update on plans for a massive re-organization that will at last bring the university’s IT, financial and back-office operations under one roof.
“If we don’t change, I don’t think we will be able to survive” the financial crisis in higher education, she said.
The latest Delta Project report covers only spending through 2009, so it captures only the early stages of the latest budget pressures. But it does suggest universities have begun making important changes in where they spend money.
Over the past 10 years at public universities, instructional spending rose only around 10 percent per student, while spending on “institutional support” rose 15 percent and maintenance 20 percent. But more recently the figures have turned. In 2009, instructional spending rose 1 percent, administrative spending 0.4 percent and operations fell 5 percent.
“The first place that they’re going is in those administrative areas,” Wellman said. “There’s big money in that. It’s painful but they have to do it.”
And yet, just when you think the budget battles of the Great Recession might be what finally tamed academia’s sprawling bureaucracies, take a look at the job openings listed with he Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. On the latter’s website last week, fewer than 40 percent of the approximately 7,100 help-wanted ads posted by colleges and universities were for faculty jobs. The other two-thirds were for administrative and executive jobs, some with the kinds of titles that make higher education critics cringe: “Marketing Coordinator,” ”Consultant-Talent Acquisition” and “Director of Discovery and Access.”