Administrative costs evaluated

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA spent more on administrative costs than its average peer institution, according to a recent survey.

The Administrative Costs Study of Arizona's Public Universities and Community Colleges, conducted by the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee, found that the University of Arizona ranked eighth highest among 16 peer institutions on administrative spending in both 1989 and 1991. The study covers costs like research materials and administrators' salaries.

In 1989, the UA spent $69.4 million compared with the group average of $62.1 million. In 1991, the UA spent $77.1 million while the peer average was $70.3 million.

John Wilson, the UA Institutional Advancement director of decision and planning support, said the UA's costs were higher than its peers' because UA has a larger student population and research efforts.

"The larger the university, the larger the costs," he said. "The study only measures the volume of activity at the university."

Four of the seven universities spending more than the UA had larger student populations. The three other larger institutions spent only slightly less than the UA and were ranked ninth through 11th in overall costs.

John Lee, the JLBC associate director, said he thinks the study shows that Arizona universities are "no different than the other institutions nation-wide" in their level of administrative spending.

Greg Fahey, UA associate vice president of state relations, said he supported completing the study to answer community members' questions.

"I was one of the people who thought the study was a good idea since there are always questions from the legislature, regents, community and faculty members about if the university has too much administration," he said. "I think the study shows we are doing pretty good. I think it would be useful to repeat the study in five to 10 years to keep us on our toes; we should be constantly kept accountable."

However, Frank Antinoro, associate director of institutional research, said he thinks the study is inconclusive because the information from the various universities was not comparable.

"The areas of institutional support and academic support were used to determine administrative costs, but each institution defines these areas differently," he said. "It's unfortunate that the study was even completed since these problems

and inconsistencies were identified early on. But the legislators wanted to know, so it was completed."

According to the survey, the UA experienced a lower increase in administrative costs than its peers from 1989 to 1991.

During that period, the UA's administrative costs increased 11 percent, or 2.2 percent when adjusted for inflation. The average peer institution experienced a 13.3 percent, or 4.2 percent inflation-based, increase during that period.

Since the most recent study data was from 1991, the fact that universities in Arizona and around the country have responded to public criticism and reduced administrative costs was not visible in the study, Lee said.

Lisa Clough, the UA state funds fiscal analyst, said the increase in administrative costs resulted from the "growth in the physical plant of the university." In 1989, the UA had 382 buildings. By 1993 the campus had expanded to 605 buildings. During this time, campus buildings increased by 1.5 million square feet, she said.

"The increased administrative cost resulted from administrating the increased number of facilities on campus," she said.

When compared to other state universities, the UA also compared favorably.

The UA spent $35.8 million, or 14 percent of its $256.6 million state-funds budget on administrative costs. In comparison, ASU's administrative costs totaled 18.2 percent of its state budget and NAU spent 23.6 percent.

However, the UA also spent an additional $11.8 million of "other funds," like research grants, on administration, while ASU spent $10.1 million and NAU spent $2.2 million of other money.

But on a per-student basis, the UA's administrative costs were significantly more than ASU and NAU and its peer institutions.

UA spent $2,160 per student, while the average peer institution totalled $1,961 per student. For each student, ASU spent $1,703 and NAU spent $1,287.

In response, the study recommended that the Arizona Board of Regents establish a "reasonable level of administrative costs at each institution and prioritize their resource allocations to ensure more dollars are spent in the classroom."

Wilson said these numbers do not accurately show how much is spent per person since research costs are included in the total administrative costs.

"It's not measuring cost per student, but cost per student plus research costs," he said.

Lee also said that the UA's research mission added to its high per-student cost.

"The per-student cost at the UA is a little high, but it's not surprising since it is a well known national research institution," he said.

Read Next Article