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Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

University administrative costs come under scrutiny

August 23, 2001

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— Higher education officials say they want to know whether the state's public universities, including Kansas University, are spending too much on administration.

So one of the primary goals for the Kansas Board of Regents this year will be to put in place an Administrative Efficiency Index.

The index will gauge effectiveness of administration at the state's research and regional universities.

"All institutions have bureaucratic creep," Regents Chairman Clay Blair said. "Having an index will give us a standard to judge administrative efficiency. Right now, our standards are not well defined."

Blair said state lawmakers who appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars to KU and the state's other public universities want this information.

That's because state revenues next session are expected to fall far short of demands for increases in education and other state services.

The index will show whether the costs of running the university are in line with the achievements of the university. The regents began discussing the issue at their recent planning retreat.

Blair said the budget directors at the six public universities have been told by the regents to come up with a plan upon which to base the index.

Blair said that if the plan from the schools is accepted by the regents, the index will be in place by the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The index will help schools become more efficient, especially if it shows one is run more efficient than another, Blair said.

Blair said he believed the state universities are administered efficiently, but that standards are needed so the schools can be measured.

Universities already informally report how much they spend on "institutional support," which generally includes the costs of executive and midlevel management, printing, purchases and human resources, according to Marvin Burris, director of fiscal affairs for the regents.

In fiscal year 2000, KU's institutional support was 6.2 percent of its total spending. At Kansas State, it was 4.2 percent; Wichita State, 6.4 percent; and the three regional universities ranged from 7 percent to 7.8 percent, according to Burris.

But things that fall into the category of institutional support vary from university to university, Burris said.

That is why, according to Blair, university administrators need to agree what functions should be included in an analysis of administrative expenses so that the schools can be compared with one another.

KU budget director Marlin Rein wouldn't comment on the proposal. He said he did not know much about it because it was only recently discussed by the regents.

Rein said it will be difficult for the schools to agree on what should be counted as administrative expenses because each school tabulates its expenses differently.

For example, he said, he had no idea how many employees at KU were considered administrators.

And, he asked, how can administrative expenses be compared when each school has a different mission?

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