As the chart at the bottom of this page shows, public higher education in our state increased its full-time-equivalent positions by nearly 25 percent between 2002 and 2011. This data, released last week by the State Auditor’s office, raises a number of questions in these budget-stressed times, foremost among which is, “What percentage of these new hires were faculty and what, administration?”

The paramountcy of this query becomes evident when we look at the national data regarding the growth in adminstration in higher education over the last few decades. In his 2011 book, published by Oxford University Press, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters, Benjamin Ginsberg writes, “Forty years ago . . . the efforts of 446,830 professors were supported by 268,952 administrators and staffers. Over the past four decades, though, as the number of full-time professors increased slightly more than 50 percent . . . the number of administrators and administrative staffers employed by those schools increased by an astonishing 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively.”

While this transformation has occurred at both private and public institutions, the lion’s share of the growth has taken place in the former. “Between 1975 and 2000, the number of administrators and managers employed by public institutions increased by 66 percent. During the same time period, though, the number of administrators employed by private colleges and universities grew by 135 percent.”

What do these increases in staff amount to in dollars? Adjusting for inflation, from 1947 to 1995, “overall university spending increased 148 percent. Administrative spending, though, increased by a whopping 235 percent. Instructional spending, by contrast, increased only 128 percent, 20 points less than the overall rate of spending increase.”

Ginsberg finds that senior administrators have done particularly well under the new regime. From 1998 to 2003, deans and vice presidents saw their salaries increase as much as 50 percent. “By 2007, the median salary paid to a president of a doctoral degree-granting institution was $325,000. Eighty-one presidents earned more than $500,000 and twelve earned over $1 million.” Surveying these increases, a Chronicle of Higher Education piece (“Presidents Defend Their Pay as Public Colleges Slash Budgets,” April 2011) observes that university CEOs must take a careful path when arguing that their “budgets have been cut to the bone . . . while at the same time acknowledging their rarified personal financial circumstances in states where layoffs, program closures, and pay reductions have been all too common.”

Could it be that Texas public higher education has remained immune to this decades-long trend? I am currently doing the research in search of an answer, which I shall report in a later edition of “Speaking Freely.”

-Thomas K. Lindsay, Ph.D.