Office of Planning & Budgeting

June 16, 2011

Improved Educational Efficiency at Higher Ed Institutions

A new State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) report indicates that institutions of higher education have increased their educational efficiency by decreasing their staff-to-student ratio since 2001. Using three IPEDS data surveys—the Fall Staff survey, 12-month Enrollment survey, and Institutional Characteristics survey—it was calculated that, although both enrollment and staffing have increased between 2001 and 2009, staffing has increased at a far slower rate. At research universities with very high research activity, like the University of Washington, staff levels increased only 6 percent while student enrollment increased by 19 percent. This suggests that higher education institutions have found ways to educate more students with fewer staff. Further findings included:

  • Clerical, secretarial, technical, service, maintenance and crafts staff levels declined steadily over the 8-year period (2001-2009)
  • Faculty, graduate, and other professional staff levels fluctuated more, but tended to increase, showing that universities focused on ensuring instructional quality to keep pace with higher student enrollment
  • Executive and administrative staff levels stayed constant
  • For very high activity research institutions, both full- and part-time employment per 100 student FTE declined (by 12 and 8 percent, respectively)

Altogether, universities with very high research activity and large hospitals like the UW employed around 40 staff per 100 student FTE in 2009, down from 45 in 2001. These data indicate that universities have been innovative in their response to steadily increasing enrollment by focusing staff resources on instruction and streamlining administrative and clerical processes. For more information, check out other UW efficiency initiatives or read the full SHEEO report.