Few would go that far. The Delta Project data, for instance, typically make finer distinctions than Ginsberg between top-level administrators and support staff like mental health counselors and financial aid advisers who are inarguably front-line workers for the university’s educational mission.

Meanwhile, few would count staff like IT coordinators or campus police—both of whose ranks have surged in recent years—in the same category as executives with titles like “director of institutional effectiveness” (one that particularly irked Ginsberg).

Meanwhile, the legions of fundraisers and grant-writers whose jobs barely existed 40 years ago probably would not have survived the chopping block this long if they did not usually bring in more revenue for the university than their positions cost.

A picture of the scope of the cuts in one state emerged last week when the University of North Carolina system detailed some of the consequences of the $414 million cut in state funding it is facing this year alone. Jobs lost include the equivalent of 880 full-time faculty and around 2,000 part-timers, but also more than 1,000 full-time staff and administrators.

Not all of those staffers work in classrooms—but they do affect students.

At UNC’s Wilmington campus, the library will be open 35 fewer hours per week. Elizabeth City is cutting evening hours at its counseling center. And in one college of the Charlotte campus, advisers now must handle nearly twice as many student visits per year.

But along with positions working directly with students, prominent administrative job titles are among those that have been cut at UNC campuses, including associate vice chancellor for business affairs, vice chancellor for community affairs and director of university communications.

University of Wisconsin President Kevin Reilly says that between transparent public budgets and the steady state cuts—including $250 million the last two years alone—that he’s faced, he finds the idea of an out-of-control academic bureaucracy incredible.

He noted top Wisconsin executives, staff and faculty alike joined all state employees in taking eight furlough days after the last budget, amounting to a 3-percent pay cut.

“We haven’t been fat and happy and growing,” said Reilly, whose system is cutting the budget 25-percent at system headquarters and 11 percent at branch campuses.

Ginsberg might concede the higher ed bureaucracy is no longer happy, and perhaps no longer growing.

But he stands by the charge of “fat.”

“The university used to be run by the faculty,” he said. “If they’re run by administrators, they become General Motors—top-heavy entities that are saved from bankruptcy only by government money.”

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