Despite tight budgets and increased enrollment, UConn has been able to avoid notable administrative hiring increases while significantly bumping up faculty numbers in recent years and bolstering critical student services, according to a review of federal figures.
In 2015, administrative positions accounted for 2.6 percent of UConn’s workforce at Storrs and the regional campuses, a percentage that has held steady in the range of 2.3 to 2.6 percent since 2003.
Meanwhile, the federal data shows that full-time UConn instructional positions – primarily faculty – have gone up 8.2 percent between 2012 and 2015, the most recent complete figures available.
The data comes from the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which the U.S. Department of Education compiles with data from surveys that colleges and universities complete for the department’s National Center for Education Statistics.
In raw numbers, UConn had 13 more administrative positions in 2015 than in 2012, driven primarily by increases in student services such as the re-establishment of the Dean of Students’ Office, the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs, a directorship for the expanding summer and intersession programs, and others.
Others were specific to initiatives currently under way, such as an administrator tasked with overseeing the development of the UConn Technology Park and the transformational Next Generation Connecticut initiative.
Several other administrative jobs also were split, combined, or eliminated during that time period, including in UConn’s budget office and facilities operations.
Positions that are deemed purely instructional increased by 107 during the 2012-15 timeframe, not including related research and other academic positions that also have some instructional responsibilities as part of their broader portfolio of duties. Non-instructional full-time staff jobs to support UConn’s growth went up by 76 positions.
“It’s a testament to the skill of our entire workforce that UConn is able to accomplish so much for our students and our state, despite the financial unpredictability that we’ve all faced in recent years,” said Scott Jordan, UConn’s executive vice president for administration and chief financial officer.
“In the end, every person who’s here and every position on the books has the same purpose: to provide the very best education for our students, and the best in research and service for our state,” he said.
Jordan added that UConn thinks carefully about each administrative position to ensure it is aligned with the University’s needs and priorities and, when necessary, will create a new position when it’s in the best interests of the students and community.
He pointed to the recent appointment of Joelle Murchison to the new position of associate vice president and chief diversity officer. She will guide UConn’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion by developing programs with others across the University to recruit and retain faculty, students, and staff from diverse backgrounds.
“The chief diversity officer position is a perfect example of UConn’s commitment to investing in the kinds of proactive, thoughtful leadership that will pay off in countless ways – many of them intangible – in our students’ futures and the inclusive climate of our campuses,” Jordan said.
UConn submits figures to the federal government each year for inclusion in the IPEDS data, with portions of the medical operations at UConn Health submitted separately, per federal guidelines. They capture job categories that run a wide gamut from managers and instructional staff to financial specialists, construction workers, computer engineers, and many other categories.
For instance, grant-funded UConn research jobs at Storrs and the regional campuses, as tracked in the IPEDS data, are essentially flat, having declined by only seven, from 248 to 241. That indicates the resiliency of UConn’s research enterprise, given the current funding landscape and the increasing fringe costs that the University must pay on grant-funded research personnel, said Jeff Seemann, UConn’s vice president for research.
“In a fiscal environment of declining and tightening funding for research, not seeing declines in our research expenditures – and, as a consequence, not seeing declines in our staff funded by research – demonstrates the continuing competitiveness of our faculty,” Seemann said.
“In fact, we’ve seen promising trends in important indicators of research productivity, such as proposal submissions – up 67 percent since 2013 – that we hope will propel growth in UConn’s research enterprise in future years,” he said.
Certain IPEDS classifications may also not fully capture the scope of duties performed by some staff. For instance, UConn employs personnel to operate its core research facilities, but these individuals are classified as “academic assistants” and are categorized in the “office and administrative support” category rather than as “research” staff.
In areas where figures have declined, such as library employees – largely due to retirements, resignations, and separations – UConn is re-envisioning the work, and hiring in a strategic manner.
For instance, the library plans to hire 10 people in the current fiscal year with critical skills as part of its “Purposeful Path” plan.
The strategic plan emphasizes critical areas such as providing materials and assistance to library users interested in entrepreneurial skills; STEM fields; and finding and sharing open-access educational materials.
It also will focus on supporting new modes of publication; building and accessing digital archives; and sharing responsibilities and services between all UConn libraries, with particular emphasis on UConn Health and the new partnership with the Hartford Public Library.
“The new vision for the Library provides a re-envisioned physical space that allows us to become more efficient and provide seamless and efficient support to our students, faculty, and staff,” said Martha Bedard, UConn’s vice provost for university libraries.
Although IPEDS figures are a valuable tool for universities such as UConn, they do not provide a valid “apples-to-apples” method through which higher education institutions can compare against each other.
The wide variances between universities and their disparate functions and priorities makes it impossible to say whether there is a “right” number of faculty, staff, and administrators or a standard by which universities should abide.
For instance, UConn has its own Department of Public Safety with full-service police and fire services, which many universities receive on contract from their host communities. This alone adds individuals to its manager/administrator list that other institutions do not have.
UConn also generates most of its electricity onsite through its Central Utility Plant, operates its own wastewater and water reclamation facilities, and provides other necessary services in-house rather than contracting solely with host communities or external utility providers. That, too, requires UConn to have the appropriate management in place for those facilities.
UConn has several other areas in which it’s unique: It is building a Tech Park and helping incubate businesses; focusing on veteran students’ needs and career planning for all students, with offices specifically geared toward those purposes; building global partnerships; directing the Connecticut Small Business Development Center; operating cultural facilities such as the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the William Benton Museum of Art; and many others.
Although UConn cannot benchmark against other universities to compare numbers of positions, it closely watches peer institutions to ensure administrative salaries are within the range of those at other top 50 public universities nationwide.
Those universities are UConn’s competitors for faculty, staff, students, managers, and research funding, and knowing the market rates for those positions is necessary to ensure the University can attract professionals with the talent to keep it continuously improving the quality of its education, research, and service.