Are Iowa’s Public Universities Bloated or Under-Invested?

What do you think? Are Iowa's public universities top-heavy with administrative bloat, or are they under-invested and have kept administrative overhead low?

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Dueling opinions on this topic were recently published in the media. Randy Evans, Iowa Freedom of Information Council Executive Director, recently wrote an article for the Iowa Capital Dispatch saying it is time to streamline top-heavy universities. Evans wrote:

With the number of administrators in universities growing like weeds in a heat wave, the result has been students having to pay tuition that increases faster than inflation. For many, that means a crushing debt load by the time they graduate.

The financial problems for Iowa’s state universities will not get better with $420,000-a-year special assistants to the president in Iowa City, or with assistant vice presidents for “specialty business services and cultural arts” in Ames, or with three associate vice presidents at Iowa State having finance in their job titles, plus a senior vice president for finance.

It is long past time for the Iowa Board of Regents to look for ways to streamline the administrative structure at these schools. The education of 60,000 students annually is at stake.

In response to Evan's article, David Leslie, chancellor professor of education emeritus at the College of William and Mary, submitted an op-ed to the Des Moines Register. Leslie argues:

Author Randy Evans oversimplifies the complex realities universities have faced for decades.

Evans implies that administrative expenditures are out of control, but that is not true nationally or at Iowa’s universities. In fact, Iowa’s universities are under-invested, if anything, in several important functions compared with their peers.

External pressure for accountability now requires specialized attention to affirmative action, student rights and privacy, environmental regulation, workplace health and safety, and more complex rules for accreditation and student financial aid. Universities are subject to all the regulatory demands facing business and agriculture, and more. Yet Iowa’s universities have kept their administrative overhead low to the point of under-investment.

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