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Kaler fires back at report that says U of M still top-heavy

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A new report suggests that the University of Minnesota remains plagued by administrative overhead costs, but U of M President Eric Kaler says that assertion is "dead wrong," the Star Tribune reports.

The “The One Percent at State U” analysis was issued Sunday by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies and says the U of M is among the top five worst offenders in the nation when it comes to university spending on administration. The institute calls itself "a progressive multi-issue think tank."

Big 10 schools did not fare well in the report, which says the top five worst universities were:

1. Ohio State University
2. Pennsylvania State University
3. University of Minnesota
4. University of Michigan
5. University of Washington

The institute says it examined excessive executive pay, faster than average rising student debt, inflated non-academic
administrative expenditures, and large increases in low-wage and/or contingent faculty labor – especially during the 1 percent recovery.

Here's what it says about the U:

"From FY 2010 to FY 2012, the University of Minnesota increased non-academic administrative staff 200% from 762 to 2,384. While the president pulled in $2.1 million, permanent faculty decreased 9% and the ranks of adjuncts grew 223% to nearly half of all instructional staff. From FY 2006 to FY 2012, expenditures per student on non-academic administration more than doubled from $2,574 to $5,790. Meanwhile, expenditures per student on scholarships dwindled from $1,424 to $914. By 2012, average student debt reached $29,702."

Kaler said the institute used “incorrect data to reach erroneous results,” and distorted his record as leader of the 52,000-student university.

Kaler has battled charges of administrative bloat since he took the job three years ago, and he says he has made aggressive efforts to trim fat.

University officials say they plan to hold fast to a bargain they made with lawmakers for the next academic year: further administrative cuts, in exchange for more money from the state, more faculty hires and a second year of tuition freezes for undergraduates.

More broadly, other findings in the institute report:

– The student debt crisis is worse at state schools with the highest-paid presidents. The sharpest rise in student debt at the top 25 occurred when executive compensation soared the highest.

– As students went deeper in debt, administrative spending outstripped scholarship spending by more than 2 to 1 at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.

– As presidents’ pay at the top 25 skyrocketed after 2008, part-time adjunct faculty increased more than twice as fast as the national average at all universities.

A separate new report notes that the number of public college presidents earning more than $1 million more than doubled – from four to nine – in the 2012-2013 fiscal year from the year before, according to a new survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kaler was not on that top-nine list, but college presidents in North Dakota, Iowa and Michigan were. Kaler was No. 27 for highest-paid university presidents in the nation, according to the chronicle ranking.

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