I-Team: Despite cutbacks, Florida college administrations growing

Critics blame tuition hikes on bureaucracy

TAMPA - It's more expensive than ever before to send your kids to college. As Florida public universities have their budgets slashed by the state, much of the cost is being passed on to students in the form of tuition increases.

Just last week, a group of USF students got on a bus early in the morning and rode to Tallahassee. They begged lawmakers to restore funding to Florida schools. The cuts amounted to more than $100 million, according to USF officials. Students saw an 11% tuition increase last year.

USF senior Matt Hastings was not one of the students who rode to Tallahassee, but he tells the I-Team he's worried about his future.

"I wasn't expecting to have to have this burden after college," Hastings said.

Hastings will graduate in a few months with a degree in anthropology. He plans on teaching, but he's concerned about paying off the $20,000 in loans he expects to leave college with.

"Am I going to be able to maintain a basic lifestyle teaching and paying off these student loans at the same time?" Hastings said.

The I-Team has uncovered statistics from the Dept. of Education which show at the same time students are being asked to pay more, administration positions at the school have actually increased. In 2007, 10.3% of full-time positions at USF were administrative positions. By 2011, the number had risen to 11.6%. 159 USF administrators make six-figure salaries.

"So these administrative pay and positions increase dramatically while students are taking out these loans," Hastings said.

Dr. Richard Vedder is an economics professor at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a think-tank focused on higher education issues based out of Washington, D.C.

"We have engaged in probably too much of a bureaucratic overkill at universities," Vedder said.

Vedder says nationwide, college bureaucracies are growing out of control, leading to higher tuition and less funding for instructors and professors.

"The USF pattern is fairly common," Vedder said.

Statistics show 8 of the 12 Florida public universities increased the percentage of their administrative staff in the midst of the recession.

"I think that this needs to be severely questioned," said Vedder.

USF Provost Dr. Ralph Wilcox agrees administration positions have increased, but says the statistics don't tell the full story. He says many of those are positions that improve the quality of education: advisors, veterans' services, and research.

"We're investing very carefully and deliberately and strategically in growing our research enterprise," Wilcox said.

He argues many administrators are paid for with funding raised by the university, not taxpayer dollars. Wilcox also provided the I-Team with data showing USF spends only 7% of its budget on administration, and 76% on instruction and research.

"There's no other university in the state of Florida that invests as high a proportion of its budget in investing in the needs of its students," Wilcox said.

Department of Education statistics also show the percentage of full-time instructors at USF has declined 3%. USF officials dispute those numbers, saying they can mostly be attributed to the change over of 183 doctors from the USF payroll to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center payroll. They claim the number of full-time instructors has actually increased in recent years.

According to DOE statistics, 8 of 12 Florida public universities have increased the percentage of administration staff between 2007 and 2011.

  • -University of Florida- up 2%
  • -Florida A&M University- up 2%
  • -New College of Florida- up 1.8%
  • -Florida International University- up 1.7%
  • -University of South Florida- up 1.3%
  • -University of North Florida- up 1.3%
  • -University of Central Florida- up 1.2%
  • -University of West Florida- up .5%

 

Do you have a tip for the I-Team? Contact us at iteam@abcactionnews.com .

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