Administration, Athletics, and Sacred Cows

In the next few weeks and months Youngstown State is going to be making decisions that will dramatically affect its future. It is convenient to characterize these decisions as strictly financial. Youngstown State is currently facing somewhere around a $6 million deficit. How the University chooses to deal with this deficit is not only an economic decision, but one that defines the very values and principles of the university.

Unfortunately, I fear that the university will fall back on traditional approaches to dealing with this deficit, namely, reduction increasing class sizes, reductions in adjunct instruction, failure to replace full-time faculty positions, and reduction in research and scholarship time. Ironically, cuts in these areas negatively affect the perception and reputation of the university. Rather than approaching the budget deficit by attacking the very foundation of the university, it is time the board of trustees and the administration take a serious look at the two sacred cows of academia: administration and athletics.

According to a report by the Goldwater Institute[1] between 1993 and 2007 the number of students at public universities increased by 14.6%. At the same time the number of full-time administrators increased by 39%. At the same time, instruction, research and service employees at the university increased by a mere 9.8%. So while an increase in university employees may may be required to accommodate the increased student populations, a three-fold accommodations seems excessive if not wasteful. If the board of trustees and administration is serious about cutting waste, then it appears they should begin by looking in their own backyard.

Athletics is the second area that seems to have been immune from budgetary cuts. According to the FY 2013 budget, the intercollegiate athletics will generate $2.9 million in revenue. Yet, the athletic program currently has budget of $11,958,956. In order to maintain our current programs, the university subsidizes the program to the tune of $9,058,167. Now it is true that $4,180,573 goes to scholarships for 395 student athletes. While $10,583 per athlete may not sound like much, if that same money was distributed to students based on need, we could provide over 542 scholarships. And the real cost of these scholarships would be less since each additional student would increase the amount of money received from the state. What is further disturbing about these numbers is the fact that we could achieve many of the financial savings, not by getting rid of the football program, but simply moving down to Division II or III. Without having to provide scholarships, we could get the benefits of ticket revenue without the huge expense.

  1. “Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Eduction” Policy Report No.239 August 17, 2010


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