Don’t Let University Administration Take Priority Over Teachers

analyzing financial data

Target: Dr. Rodney Erickson, President of Pennsylvania State University

Goal: Urge the university to end its practice of prioritizing administration spending over instruction

America’s largest public 4-year college is Pennsylvania State University, with an annual enrollment of more than 95,000 students. Like many other universities, Penn State depends largely on adjunct professors, or non-permanent staff,  who typically receive no health or pension benefits, are paid far less than their tenured colleagues, and must essentially reapply for their jobs every semester. Meanwhile, administrative costs have skyrocketed in recent decades. This practice exploits essential teaching staff, and is a major cause for increased tuition costs.

Budget trends at the school mirror national trends in which per-student spending on administration has become a bigger priority than spending on instruction. From 1993-2007, Penn State’s admin staff per 100 students increased by roughly 70%, while instruction and research staff increased by only 5.3%. Tuition at the university increased by approximately 84% during the same period, according to a report by the Commonwealth Foundation.

Adjunct professor James Hoff, writing for The Guardian, describes how the trend “devalues higher education” and “makes full-time teaching unaffordable” for educators. This shift away from providing a quality education to a more corporate, for-profit model is an injustice to students and teachers alike. Urge Penn State to end its exploitation of adjunct professors, and to focus spending on instruction rather than administrative salaries.


Dear Dr. Rodney Erickson, President of Pennsylvania State University,

Penn State currently serves more students than any other public 4-year university in the United States. It also has the dubious distinction of spending more on administrative costs per student than most other universities. According to the Commonwealth Foundation, administrators now outnumber teachers, researchers and service providers at the school. Adjunct professors remain overworked and underpaid.

Increases in enrollment have not been nearly as dramatic as this increase in administrative spending. When instructors are without basic job security, medical or pension benefits, they are often forced to take on other jobs even though they would prefer to teach full-time. And as admin costs skyrocket, many universities are increasing dependence on adjuncts who are paid less than their tenured counterparts. This hurts all students, and devalues the education that they’re paying such a pretty penny to receive.

The exploitation of adjunct professors is a national trend. Never the less, as a leader in higher education, Penn State has an opportunity, and an obligation, to push for sustainable spending that prioritize instruction. I call on you to shift Penn State’s focus away from increasing administrative costs, and instead to prioritize spending on the educators who are the heart and soul of all universities.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Dave Dugdale via Wikimedia

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