Measuring Maine’s Public Colleges: Non-Instructional Staffing and Cost-Per-Degree

Read the full report | Are Maine’s colleges and universities as efficient as they could be? According to the Brookings Institution’s 2006 “Charting Maine’s Future” report, “inefficiencies in Maine’s higher education system may be costing the state $14 million a year.” The $14 million figure originated with University of Maine economics professor Philip Trostel’s analysis of the ratio between in- structional and non-instructional payroll at the state’s higher education institutions. That data, he claimed, suggested “that there could be excess costs in non-instructional areas.”

The University system was quick to respond to suggestions that its non-instructional spending was too high. It put out a report claiming that its own “reporting errors” had skewed the Census Bureau data used by Trostel and others. With these errors cor- rected, the university system concluded, its instructional-to-non-instructional payroll ratio was in line with national averages.

It may be time to revisit the issue of non-instructional spending by the University and Community College systems, however. Last month, The Maine Heritage Policy Center released a report estimating the cost to produce a degreed graduate at each of Maine’s public and private colleges. The study not only revealed wide variations in cost-per-degree from one campus to an- other, it found that the state’s smaller public colleges and universities generally had a lower cost-per-degree than the state’s lar- ger schools. This would seem to contradict the conventional wisdom that larger university and college campuses are more cost- effective.

Read the full report