E.D. Says 'Blob' Consumes Much of Colleges' Budgets

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Washington--The administrative "blob" that Secretary of Education William J. Bennett claims is consuming an excessive portion of public schools' budgets is also at work on college campuses, according to a report released by the Education Department last week.

The study, conducted by two department researchers, found that administrative costs are taking an increasing portion of the higher-education dollar and that noninstructional members of the professional staff are becoming a larger campus presence.

At a news briefing, Chester E. Finn Jr., assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, avoided drawing critical conclusions from the study, but said it should cause the higher-education community to ask, "Is this the way we'd like the trends to go?"

"I'm not going to say that [administrative costs] are growing too much or too little," Mr. Finn said.

"I'm going to say it's growing, and let your readers decide if it's growing more than it should."

"In my personal opinion," he added, "higher-education institutions ought to be more productive than they are."

Administrative expenses amounted to 19.2 percent of higher-education budgets in the 1984-85 academic year, up from 12.5 percent in 1949-50, according to the report.

Because of an increasing emphasis on research and public-service4activities, it says, total administrative expenses at an average institution consumed 29.7 cents for each dollar spent on instruction in 1984-85, compared with 17.6 cents in 1949-50.

According to the report, private colleges spent a larger percentage of their budgets on administration than public institutions, which the researchers said could be due to their need to conduct fundraising activities and administer larger financial-aid programs.

The study found that the proportion of professional noninstructional personnel on campuses rose from 17.5 percent to 23.2 percent between 1966 and 1983, while faculty size increased by only one percentage point--to 30.8 percent--and nonprofessional staff declined from 53.5 percent to 46 percent.

The researchers suggest in the report that higher-education institutions look further into the reasons behind these changes and "evaluate their staffing patterns to determine whether more efficient utilization of personnel is possible."

The study was undertaken as a follow-up to a departmental analysis of the cost of a college degree, which found that private institutions spend much more per student than public schools.

The prior study gained notoriety when the higher-education community and some lawmakers charged that it was slanted to support the Administration's agenda.--jm

Vol. 07, Issue 17

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