Friday, May 6, 2016

Notice: Low Overhead

Much attention has been paid in recent years to the rising cost of higher education, and particularly to the rapid growth in administrative expenses. Since 1980, tuition costs have tripled at public universities and doubled at private colleges. Over the same period, faculty-to-student ratios have remained fairly constant, while administrator-to-student ratios have significantly dropped.

According to Benjamin Ginsberg, writing for, in an article entitled "Administrators Ate My Tuition," "Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year."
"Forty years ago, America’s colleges employed more professors than administrators. The efforts of 446,830 professors were supported by 268,952 administrators and staffers. Over the past four decades, though, the number of full-time professors or 'full-time equivalents'—that is, slots filled by two or more part-time faculty members whose combined hours equal those of a full-timer—increased slightly more than 50 percent. That percentage is comparable to the growth in student enrollments during the same time period. But the number of administrators and administrative staffers employed by those schools increased by an astonishing 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively. 
"Today, administrators and staffers safely outnumber full-time faculty members on campus. In 2005, colleges and universities employed more than 675,000 full-time faculty members or full-time equivalents. In the same year, America’s colleges and universities employed more than 190,000 individuals classified by the federal government as 'executive, administrative and managerial employees.' Another 566,405 college and university employees were classified as 'other professional.' This category includes IT specialists, counselors, auditors, accountants, admissions officers, development officers, alumni relations officials, human resources staffers, editors and writers for school publications, attorneys, and a slew of others. These 'other professionals' are not administrators, but they work for the administration and serve as its arms, legs, eyes, ears, and mouthpieces."
At Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the ratio of full-time faculty to students is about 1-to-10. The full-time or full-time equivalent staff-to-student ratio is about 1-to-18. Annual enrollment varies, but is typically around 60-70 students in recent years, including on-campus students, distance-learning students, and students enrolled in our two international extension programs.

GPTS spends relatively little on administrative costs. Operating expenses, staff salaries, and occupancy expenses (overhead) totaled $404,689 in fiscal year 2014-15, the last complete fiscal year for which records are available. That came to about $5,800 per student.

Greenville Seminary's full-time staff consists of the director of development and recruiting and the development associate. These full-time employees typically "wear a number of hats." The full-time librarian position is a hybrid staff/faculty function, but is officially classified as faculty. Part-time staffers include the registrar, business manager, art director, IT director, custodian, and administrative assistant to the president.

Our staffing costs are reduced greatly by two factors: 1) a number of volunteers performing staff functions, and 1) tuition-waiver students providing labor to supplement what their churches contribute to support of the seminary on their behalf. Waiver students serve, for example, as media director, on-site IT specialist, and library and maintenance assistants. Volunteers serve as receptionists, chapel musicians, and business-office assistants, among other things.

During FY15, instructional program items, including faculty salaries, totaled $546,835. That came to $7,812 per student.

The GPTS trustees have had a commitment from the beginning to keep tuition rates very low, so that students called to the ministry do not leave seminary owing a mountain of debt as students at other seminaries often do. Tuition typically costs about $6,000 to $8,000 per year for full-time students. With tuition bringing in under $500,000 a year and expenses budgeted at $1.1 million (FY15), the difference is made up by the seminary's faithful donors.

Donors can be assured that their gifts are funding an institution that puts a premium on careful stewardship of its supporters' investments. As of May 4, expenses for the current fiscal year were $14,200 below budget. The fiscal year ends June 30.