Money is coming back to Meramec, but will faculty and students see any of it?
By: Joe Makoto
Good news for Missouri public higher education; money is coming back as the state budget crunch alleviates. But this may not be good news for students or faculty if the new money is simply spent on more administrators. There has been a well documented, long term trend in higher education of administrative costs skyrocketing while student services and professor support withers. It is difficult to notice when this happens because differentiating between purely administrative functions and those that actually help students and professors is not easy. Also, there is a legitimate need for administrative functions and these needs grow as the institution becomes more complex. When public higher education is tasked to be many more things to many more people, the seeming need for managers grows.
Office fauna have more mundane ways of protecting their turf like office politics, policy inertia, inflating a sense of worth through sophisticated wording and excessive reliance on credentialing; all are well known and well worn techniques. When fully engrossed in protecting turf, it becomes easy to forget the goal of the institution itself; to train and educate the next generation of workers to be effective in larger society. This goal, which is the main societal goal of public higher education, becomes secondary, or even tertiary to the more everyday tasks of keeping his/her immediate superior happy, fighting at the department level for a larger share of the funding stream or to expand his/her influence. Administrators are especially well honed at recognize and exploit these realities. Students, being transient and relatively poorly organized, are far less able to compete for resources and needed support.
It would be a shame, if unsurprising, if the recent increase in state funding goes to these parochial goals of managers and not to students. Possibly higher level administrators are aware of these realities and will take steps to counter this trend. However, being a realist it is likely that this long established trend towards more administrative costs will continue for now.