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Provost Nick Jones Addresses Administrative Creep

With Penn State’s tuition sitting as the second highest among public universities in he country, it’s natural that all parts of its budget come into question. One of the common terms that gets thrown around when trying to explain skyrocketing tuition is “administrative creep” — or, a gradual increase in non-academic staff at universities, which results in increased costs for salaries and benefits.

Penn State’s budget is notoriously clandestine, but Provost Nick Jones made the concept of administrative creep the focus of his presentation to the Board of Trustees this afternoon in Hershey.

“Although my past reports have focused primarily on the academic issues facing our University, today I will put on my other hat as executive Vice President and Provost and discuss a management and budgetary issue that rightly has been of some concern for our trustees and as part of a larger national discussion about the cost of higher education,” Jones said. “That is growth in administrative positions which has been dubbed administrative creep and appears to be ancillary you to investments in core academic mission.”

Jones came armed with a plethora of statistics about employment growth at the university from the last ten years. Excluding the Hershey Medical School, Penn State has increased its number of employees by 2,400: 55% in academic units, 23% in academic support units, and 22% in administrative support units. During that time, the number of students has increased by 14,309, although that number is only 3,504 if you exclude World Campus enrollment. The largest growth in full-time employees came in the Office of Physical Plant, with a growth of 191 in the last 10 years, while the launch of World Campus added 167 employees.

Other areas that saw growth include:

  • Research (165)
  • Informational Technology Sciences (102)
  • Auxiliary and Business Services (96)
  • Intercollegiate Athletics (84 — although this is financially self-sustaining)
  • Finance and Business (48)
  • Student Affairs (47)

Jones attributed this growth to both enrollment numbers and an increase in staff to meet an increase in federal regulations on higher education. Penn State has also added 6 million gross square feet to its physical plant, much of which is for specialized buildings (like research labs) that require additional care. Technology also requires more manpower than it did ten years ago (the World Campus wasn’t even launched until 2006) and research expenditures have increased by $213 million during that time.

According to Jones’ numbers (shown below) the ratio of paid employee to student has actually decreased.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 2.39.59 PM

“We need to place more emphasis on direct faculty and student needs and we must do more to produce cost efficiencies,” Jones said. “We have begun a major strategic organizational process review to further enhance our educational, scholarly, and creative endeavors.”

While still very preliminary, Jones outlined three main goals for the organizational processes review:

1. Improve the design, oversight, and effectiveness of organizational processes.
2. Move toward integrated processes.
3. Implement strategies for continuous institutional assessment, improvement, and innovation.

“We believe this initiative will allow us to make additional targeted budgetary and eye efficiency improvements,” Jones said. “We’re committed to fiscal discipline and to eliminating functions that we can do without, but we must continue to invest strategically in Penn State and ensure that we can serve our constituents in an effective and responsible manner.”

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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