Ohio Conference President, John McNay, Testifies before Ohio House’s Higher Education Reform Study Committee

On Monday, September 9, Ohio Conference AAUP President John McNay delivered testimony [full text provided below] to the Higher Education Reform Study Committee–a new standing committee started in the Ohio House of Representatives over the summer.

The committee has embarked on a “road show,” traveling all over the state to public and for-profit colleges to discuss a myriad of issues in higher education.

On September 9, the committee met at Columbus State Community College to address the topic of “Reducing the High Cost of Higher Education.”  “Faculty Workload” was a topic listed under that heading.

During his testimony, McNay explained, “The common assumption is that universities’ costs are so high due to the labor (e.g. faculty) that they have to employ…Yet the most recent data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Data System (IPEDS) reveals that between FY 2002 and FY 2011, Ohio’s institutions spent, on average, 29.5 percent of their operating budgets on total instructional compensation (e.g. salaries and benefits). Over the 10 year period, total instructional compensation declined by 3.9 percent.”

Citing additional IPEDS data, McNay went on to tell legislators that the real culprit of rising tuition and waste is “administrative bloat,” and that future discussions about reducing higher education costs should focus on reining in administrative spending and redirecting it to instructional purposes.

Members of the committee seemed to acknowledge the problems of administrative bloat and the shrinking numbers of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty at Ohio’s institutions.  Vice Chair Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) asked for a list of recommendations from the Ohio Conference AAUP.

We will continue to update our members with relevant information about this committee. You can follow the committee and read other testimony that has been given by clicking here.


Testimony of John McNay, Ph.D., President

Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors

Before the House Higher Education Reform Study Committee

Representative Cliff Rosenberger, Chair

September 9, 2013

Chairman Rosenberger and distinguished members of the Higher Education Reform Study Committee: my name is John McNay and I am President of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The Ohio Conference AAUP represents nearly 4,500 college and university professors at both public and private institutions of higher education across the State of Ohio. I am also a professor of American history at the University of Cincinnati where I teach courses on the Cold War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. I’ve published books and articles on the Cold War.

The mission of the Ohio Conference AAUP is to promote the greater social good that comes from a dynamic, active professoriate – professors being the backbone of quality education and research in higher education. To achieve that goal, we work to preserve and advance academic freedom – the right to engage in good teaching and important research without fear of being terminated for political reasons; and to promote shared governance, so that important decisions are made with input from those with expertise and from those who must carry out decisions in the best interests of students and the general public.

I come to you today to address the topic of faculty workloads. As you may recall, the original version of House Bill 59, the state budget bill, contained a provision that would have uniformly required Ohio universities to increase the teaching loads for full full-time faculty by one additional course from the previous academic year. My organization was opposed to that provision, and we appreciated the work of the Higher Education Subcommittee in removing it from the bill.

We oppose such proposals because they fail to take into account the myriad of factors that determine how much teaching faculty are assigned. Universities are complex organizations, consisting of different colleges, schools and departments, each with different missions. Teaching loads at our universities have been crafted carefully to allow faculty to carry out these distinctive missions. For example, at my college, UC-Blue Ash, the state’s oldest and largest regional campus, I’m a full professor whose teaching load this term is two sections of World History, an upper division course on World War II, and a section of the History of U.S. Foreign Policy. As an example of faculty flexibility, I will be teaching that section of U.S. Foreign Policy at our main campus. The main campus lost a professor who took a teaching position elsewhere at the last minute, and rather than canceling the class, asked if I would teach it since it is my specialization. To help the main campus department and the students, I said yes, even though three different preps is unusual and substantially more work. As a history professor, I ordinarily teach about 100 students per term. But faculty at our College of Engineering and College of Medicine teach fewer classes and have fewer students because they are often engaged in grant-based research, sometimes with commercialization in mind.

Faculty at our state institutions of higher education are huge economic drivers – they bring in millions of research dollars into the Ohio economy every year through grants, discoveries, and inventions. In fact, as state support for higher education has dramatically decreased over the past two decades, faculty research money and innovation has helped to replace the lost revenue. Enforcing arbitrary workload mandates will jeopardize those revenue sources. So while some may believe that uniformly increasing workload for Ohio’s full-time faculty is a cost-savings measure, it would actually have the opposite impact.

These kinds of one-size-fits-all edicts can impair the ability of faculty to carry out their distinctive missions, as well as make it difficult to retain and attract productive and high quality faculty. To measure faculty purely based on the number of classes they teach would be like measuring legislators based only on the time spent in their legislative chamber–-it would fail to take into account their committee work, constituent service, and all of the other responsibilities expected of legislators.

The common assumption is that universities’ costs are so high due to the labor (e.g. faculty) that they have to employ; hence why “Faculty Workload” is a topic listed under “Reducing the High Cost of Higher Education” for this committee. Yet the most recent data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Data System (IPEDS) reveals that between FY 2002 and FY 2011, Ohio’s institutions spent, on average, 29.5 percent of their operating budgets on total instructional compensation (e.g. salaries and benefits). Over the 10 year period, total instructional compensation declined by 3.9 percent.

Administrators outnumber tenured and tenure-track full-time faculty by a nearly two to one ratio. If you include all full-time faculty, the ratio is closer to one to one, but that is an astonishing figure. Our universities are employing as many administrators as full-time faculty. Research has shown that the ideal faculty to administrator ratio is three to one. Moreover, there is one administrator for every 14 students, representing an increase of 25 percent.

The data also reveals that “Institutional Support,” which IPEDS defines as administrative spending, went up 33.6 percent from 2002 to 2011. It also shows that “Academic Support,” which IPEDS defines as instructional support, increased 27.8 percent. However, Academic Support includes academic administration like Deans’ office and heads of various centers. As a result, a large portion of the increase in Academic Support actually can be chalked up to more administrative spending.

These statistics illustrate the most pervasive problem behind rising tuition and waste in higher education: “administrative bloat.”

University administration is difficult and challenging work, and good administrators make valuable contributions to the educational enterprise. But thirty years ago, administration was just a thin layer above the faculty ranks. Not anymore. Far beyond a response to new regulations and requirements from the state and federal governments, administrative bureaucracy has shown a determined ability to expand its ranks. Administrative bloat is amounting to a non-value added administrative tax on our students.

Moreover, administrative bloat is surely part of the reason for the overuse of part-time faculty. The ratio of part-time faculty to full-time faculty is nearing two to one, representing a 16 percent increase over the aforementioned 10 year period. Too many administrations – engaged in real estate deals, new construction projects, and sports management – when faced with a choice, prioritize hiring and maintaining staff over faculty. Scarce resources are being siphoned away from the real purpose of the university: education.

When the General Assembly and our universities allow tuition to increase, we have to ask ourselves what students and parents are getting for their money. My organization hopes that in future discussions on reducing higher education costs, reining in administrative spending, and redirecting those funds to instructional purposes, is at the forefront.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I would be happy to answer questions that the committee may have.

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