A new report from a higher education association finds that public universities are leaner now than at the start of the last decade, with fewer staff members and fewer faculty per 100 students after multiple years of state funding cuts.
Public universities overall had 21.1 staff per 100 students in the 2009-10 academic year, compared with 22.9 staff in 2001-02, according to the report from State Higher Education Executive Officers.
Staffing declines seemed to be steepest among the roughly 100 schools in the Carnegie classification “research, high activity,” a group of schools smaller in research scale (if not in size) than the top research institutions. Schools in that group went from 45 staff per 100 students in 2001-02 to 40 staff in 2009-10. Staffing changes in other categories of schools, including the top research schools and non-research institutions, were comparatively smaller.
Staffing declined in the early years of the last decade, then rebounded from 2003 to 2008 before declining again in 2009 and 2010, after the downturn.
Part-time instructional staff held steady in the time period studied, but full-time instructional staff declined by 9 percent, from 4.6 to 4.2 per 100 students. Employees less-directly involved with students, including clerical and administrative workers, saw comparatively larger declines.
The report is more about identifying trends than reaching conclusions. But its authors politely note that public universities face conflicting forces: pressure from state governments to operate with less money on the one hand, and pressures from the Obama administration to increase completion rates on the other.