The Staggering Administrative Bloat of Universities

This chart is from a recent state audit report of Janet Napolitano's office at the University of California, an audit I already wrote about here.

Obviously Napolitano's office is particularly bad as compared to peers, but she has 1667 staff and spends over a half billion (billion with a B) just on the office of the President!  This is not in any way shape or form the total administrative size of the system - each university has its own administrative staff, for example.  This is just her central office.  This is a staggering number.  It equates to every student in the system paying over $2500 a year just for the central headquarters staff that they will never see, this is before the first dollar is spent on their individual campus -- or God forbid -- on teaching or academics.  To my mind this is way more of a scandal than her hiding a money reserve in various accounts.

This begins to get at a conflict I keep expecting to happen, but doesn't.  Time and time again, particularly in places like California, we find examples where agencies that are supposed to be serving the public are in fact diverting much of their resources to maintain the staffing levels, salaries, and rich benefits and pensions of their employees.  For years I have expected some sort of civil war on the Left, where Progressives figure out that providing things they care about (e.g. education, parks) is being limited by the huge resources that are being diverted to government employees.  Just look at the chart above -- California Democrats have twisted themselves into knots trying to find an incremental $50 or $100 million of funding for the California public university system, and here it is -- I can see an easy $400 million one could easily pull out of Napolitano's office.  Unfortunately, government employees and their unions are a big force in electing Democrats, and so they are reluctant to challenge these folks.  It is a classic example of "do you care about the things you say you value or do you care about power" and so far in places like California the answer has been "power."


  1. Hal_10000:

    Higher education -- and I say this as one who works in it -- is rapidly becoming an Administration with sidelines in teaching and research.

  2. J_W_W:

    I came to the conclusion decades ago that Democrats only cared about power and were always lying about helping people.

  3. Richard Harrington:

    It's the core element of the liberal ethos - tax and spend. It doesn't really matter where the money comes from, as long as it comes from the evil rich people. And, it doesn't really matter where it goes, as long as it is to the "right" people. It's for kids!

  4. Shane:

    When is it not about power? I posit ... never.

  5. Dana Ledyard:

    I'm wondering if similar data is available for offices at other public universities perhaps more comparable to the UC system (based on the general top 5 public rankings, maybe Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina?) I 100% agree that these figures look insanely bloated. But I'm not sure if the Cal state or Florida systems are the right comparisons so would love to see some more data points if they are out there.

  6. Sam P:

    I suspect the University of California system is the top university system in the country. How many university systems are there anyway? For example, the Michigan Association of State Universities (University of Michigan is a member) sounds more like a trade organization than anything like the University of California. The State University of New York is definitely one, but I'd rank it closer to California State University than University of California.

    Note that the State University System of Florida Board of Governors is rather new, created in 2002. It sounds like an interesting political story of how it came into existence. There was a previous organization, the Florida Board of Regents which was abolished in 2001, the Board of Governors was not its direct successor.

  7. Fred Chittenden:

    What's missing bubbling to the surface in this analysis of adminstrative political bigotry against conservatives is how most of those determining admissions to undergrad and, more importantly, post-grad programs is highly concentrated in the politically bigoted left who treat conservative applicants (particularly in post-grad programs) like the same racially bigoted Democrats treated blacks in the not so distant past.

    One only needs to look at the questions asked by these schools for admissions to post-graduate program to figure out how the questions can be heavily tilted to left wing applicants. They replaced any hint of questions of political bigotry against skin color with obsfucated questions that may expose applicants religious, conservative, and individual responsibility beliefs so the burrOcrats may admit leftish applicants, due to their political bigotry against anything conservative...

    Fine print -- this is all about pushing those with post grad education to be stronger left wing nonsense... Never mind that most of these folks have little to no experience earning a living in Main Street. Where did the President of the UC system come from? She held a hard left burrOcratic position under Obama as head of Homeland Security -- which set up an immigration system that leaked millions of illegals every year, costing taxpayers billions in welfare costs...

  8. Mike:

    That's incredible. Out of $655 million a year, she can't come up with security for a talk...

  9. slocum:

    Willie Brown went off the reservation a few years ago and criticized the power and cost unionized public employees as a Democrat. But he did so from a safe, elder-statesman perch, and it didn't go anywhere.

  10. DirtyJobsGuy:

    I kept up good contact with my department faculty for years after I left grad school. Periodically we'd have lunch when I stopped by. The conversation always turned to administrative overhead. The number of faculty was pretty much the same with the same two department secretaries who really ran the show. Now as an engineering department we had some big labs but these were fully funded by outside contracts. The great increase was in administration including new deans, vice deans, directors of this and that and more. The Princeton's and Harvards set the nominal price scale which all other first rate schools followed. This allowed administrators to increase their numbers and pay. Now without Harvard's endowment you needed to sell full price seats to foreigners. The high list price was advantageous. I've heard the student brokers get 10-15% commission and if you figure a 5-10% wiggle room, you have foreigners paying up front at least 80% of list price.

  11. Nehemiah:

    "For years I have expected some sort of civil war on the Left, where
    Progressives figure out that providing things they care about (e.g.
    education, parks) is being limited by the huge resources that are being
    diverted to government employees."

    This would happen except the recipients of the diverted funds make huge political contributions to Progressive politicians. They can always get more money from taxpayers.

  12. jguy1957:

    This is theft pure and simple of the tax payer and the college student (and his parent who pays). It is clear that these universities are progressive heavens and a boon to the Democrat coffers. Unfortunately this is a road that will end as people cannot afford it and will not continue to send their children to places that are "too radical" for learning. This is why Democrats want free college but there is never mention of these costs. Foreign monies are flooding in for Islamic centers and teachings on campuses, and Foreign Students over American Students. Overall this will lead to a crises in Academia that will hurt Universities much in the next few years.

  13. Petercat:

    That's a lot of money to pay a babysitting service.

  14. SamWah:

    All that union money goes into gummint JOBS. Say no more, say no more.

  15. DerKase:

    I used to work in the George Mason Univ. (part of the Virginia university system) Office of the Provost from 1999-2002. GMU once prided itself on having a lean overhead. At the time, there were only 3 people with the words "vice president" in their job title and 5 people with the word "provost" in their job title. The subject of admin bloat came up in about 2010 and I checked the GMU web site. In about 8 years, the number of vice presidents had grown to 21 and the number of provosts had grown to 15. I am hesitant to look again.