Higher education is a labor-intensive industry whose primary service, instruction, is delivered by a lecturer, accompanied by administrative support and various other services. Growing student enrollment necessitates some additional staffing; however, one would think that the recent and ongoing technological boom would have lessened the labor burden at colleges, but a close examination of the data suggests otherwise. In fact, the data reveals that colleges have generally increased their staff relative to enrollment and the number of degrees awarded, especially in the back office.
One problem, critics claim, is that an onerous regulatory environment has been established that requires a myriad of regulations and reporting requirements, which are often unnecessary and redundant in nature. In order to comply with the government's requirements, colleges need to employ a staff that is responsible for providing the multiple state and federal agencies with compliance reports and data. This may be one piece of the puzzle, but it certainly does not tell the complete story of the burgeoning administrative staffs in higher education.
This report will analyze employment trends and labor productivity at institutions of higher education over the past twenty years. What I find is that colleges have altered the composition of their work force by steadily increasing the number of managerial positions and support/service staff, while at the same time disproportionately increasing the number of part-time staff that provides instruction. Meanwhile, employee productivity relative to enrollment and degrees awarded has been relatively flat in the midst of rising compensation.