Opinion: Administrative bloat contributes to wasteful spending at UI

By becoming overly focused on nonessential programs, the UI has become needlessly more expensive.


Ryan Adams

The dome of Iowa’s Old Capitol building peaks above University of Iowa campus buildings along the Iowa River north of Iowa City, Iowa on June 4, 2019.

Marina Jaimes, Columnist

Of the numerous reasons for increasing tuition rates across the country, administrative bloat joins introduction of more federal subsidies and decreased funding from legislatures as top answers. Because universities lack control over the latter two, they have a responsibility to not spend wastefully on administrative costs — this was not the case with the recent resignation of University of Iowa Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson.

A 2017 Forbes article highlights the difference in spending between instructional costs and administrative expenses at public and private universities is now almost zero. Some 40 years ago, the difference between the two expenses were noticeably different, with instructional costs bearing a majority of the expense. Instead of investing in classrooms, universities are overfunding secondary initiatives.

No individual university is solely responsible for this change. (Competition among universities and ever-changing standards set by the U.S. Department of Education add to the chaos.) The UI’s actions in recent months have not pointed toward the conclusion that it responsibly manages its finances despite touting low administrative overhead.

The UI embarked on a two-year journey to replace Georgina Dodge as the associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Past excursions to expand, fill, or replace administrators accumulated $1.4 million in consulting fees from August 2017-2018, according to an August 2018 article by The Gazette. The cost to fill the position of chief diversity officer rang in much less at only $103,592. Although the consultant was not successful in finding the right fit for the position, the university will still have to pay expenses to the same consultant, plus “an additional 11 percent of the original fee to cover additional indirect expenses” should it choose to reopen a search.

The UI’s actions in recent months have not pointed toward the conclusion that it responsibly manages its finances despite touting low administrative overhead.

The hefty price of the search is only in addition to the $224,000 salary the UI will remain paying to Wilson, who will spend the next five and a half months on campus in a temporary position while he looks to pursue other opportunities. He resigned before the fall 2019 semester began, after only seven weeks at the UI. His offer letter, requested by The Daily Iowan, granted him $25,000 in moving expenses and required him to repay those expenses if he left within a year, a requirement that the university is now waiving.

It is sad to say the university has been irresponsible on filling the position from the very beginning, but it is the truth. For years, student and taxpayer dollars have lined the pockets of consultants who took their time finding an administrator who was not the right fit for the job. The UI has ignored stipulations agreed to in contracts that it created to generously waive repayment of moving expenses and will still allow such situations as Wilson’s, with other departments compensating for his resignation.

Concerns over administrative bloat are not unique to the UI. Across the board, public universities should withhold generosity of funds they did not generate and be conscientious about the tuition dollars they have before demanding more from the state.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.