Faculty Aren’t the Cause of Tuition Increases

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Columbus Dispatch in response to an article that placed some of the blame for increases in tuition and in student debt on inflated faculty salaries and continuing salary increases.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

As president of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which represents more than 4,500 college and university professors at both public and private institutions across the state, I read with interest the July 21 Dispatch article “Degree of Debt.”

My organization appreciates thoughtful reporting and analysis of important issues affecting higher education. Ever-increasing student debt, brought on by higher tuition costs, is reaching a crisis level. The costs are quickly becoming so high that it is a barrier to middle- and working-class families sending their children to college, something that for so long has been part of our American ideal.

The article correctly pointed out that there are many factors leading to the high costs of tuition. Massive cuts in state funding over the past 20 years are an important reason. The construction “arms race” is another factor, with universities racing to build more-elaborate dorms, rock-climbing walls and football stadiums.

The article mentioned rising salaries for professors as a factor. In reality, full-time professors’ salaries actually constitute a relatively small portion of university budgets — about 16 percent to 20 percent in Ohio, according to figures obtained from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

This is a telling statistic when the prevailing assumption is that universities’ costs are so high due to the number of faculty members they employ.

The article did not mention the ever-increasing number of university administrators, a serious problem known as “administrative bloat.” Administrators outnumber tenured and tenure-track full-time faculty by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio.

If you include all full-time faculty, the ratio is closer to 1 to 1, but think about that: Ohio’s public universities are employing as many administrators as full-time faculty.

Research has suggested that the ideal faculty-to-administrator ratio is 3 to 1.

The cause of higher tuition costs is multifaceted. The solution must be multifaceted, as well. The Ohio Conference of the AAUP looks forward to working with all stakeholders — universities, students, parents, the state legislature, lenders — on this critical issue.


History Professor, University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash

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