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University of Minnesota Response: Institute for Policy Studies Report is Flawed, Inaccurate

May 18, 2014

The following is a response from the University of Minnesota to the Institute for Policy Studies’ (IPS) The One Percent at State U report, issued May 18, 2014.

We consider this report extremely flawed because it uses inaccurate data and presents a misleading picture of the University. While the report addresses important issues in higher education – administrative costs, student debt and use of part-time teachers or adjuncts –President Eric Kaler and his administration have made significant progress on these issues. The report ignores this progress, and fails to address these issues in a responsible and truthful way for the years the report claims to represent. In some instances, the methodology and numbers that result are outright wrong.

The University’s analysis of the IPS report finds these significant errors:

1) All of the faculty and staff count data (“non-academic administration”, “permanent faculty” and “adjuncts”), are misrepresented because they are from different years than stated in the report, and the actual data for the years they claim to show tell a very different story.

The IPS report relies heavily on data presented by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on its website in a section called a Higher Education Data Center.  AFT indicates that all data “comes directly from the Department of Education, based on information reported annually by the institutions.”  This does not seem to be an accurate statement – AFT data often do not match Department of Education/IPEDS data at all, or matches data but incorrectly reports a different year.  These inaccuracies cloud the conclusions of the IPS study.

As examples, the report relies heavily on IPS’ definition of “Part-time/Adjunct Faculty.” We believe the IPEDS data (data the University reports to the federal government) that IPS attempted to capture are defined in IPEDS as “Part-Time, Instruction/Research/Public Service.” Below is a comparison of the two data sources as an example, showing how the same numbers appear in different years.  The accurate figures and years are those the University has provided to IPEDS. The University’s publicly available data, along with all institutions, is available at http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/. Note: We also believe AFT and the researchers freely confuse calendar year and fiscal year terms throughout their report.

AFT data (University of Minnesota)

Part-time/Adjunct Faculty Fall 2007 Fall 2009 Fall 2011 Fall 2012
    Men 335 289 712 744
    Women 137 118 574 574
TOTAL 472 407 1286 1318

IPEDS data – University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Change in IPEDS definition occurred between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 years.

Part-time/Instruction, Research & Public Service 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
    Men 335 289 712 794 744 688 677
    Women 137 118 574 536 574 529 541
TOTAL 472 407 1286 1330 1318 1217 1218

For example, the AFT higher education data center shows a total of 1318 part-time/”adjunct” faculty in Fall 2012.  Those numbers are actually reported in IPEDS in the 2009-10 data submission, a full three years earlier.  Furthermore, the numbers cited are for any part-time employee in the instruction, research, or public service category, and so represent both faculty and non-faculty (e.g., lab scientist, extension educators, and so forth) in part-time roles.

In 2006-07, IPEDS changed the definition and captured more people in this category. Prior to that, the same people were present, but in a different category. Accordingly, it is misleading to compare data from 2006-07 to later years.  The reason is that between 2006-07 and 2007-08, IPEDS underwent a significant change in the definitions for reporting (i.e. more job codes were used to report the numbers, greatly increasing the number of these types of employees represented in the IPEDS data, even though the University saw almost zero employees added between those two fiscal years).

Setting the definition change aside, it would be a much better apples-to-apples comparison for one to consider the change in employees from 2007-08 to 2011-12. This shows that, in fact, the numbers of employees in this category have actually decreased.

The University’s own data on full-time vs. part-time faculty suggest a very different story than represented by IPS, showing a 3.7% increase in the number of full-time faculty, vs. a 3.6% decrease in the number of part-time faculty over the past six years:

Faculty Headcount – Twin Cities campus Fall 2008 Fall 2009 Fall 2010 Fall 2011 Fall 2012 Fall 2013
    Full-time 2,877 2,821 2,833 2,856 2,880 2,983
    Part-time 591 596 541 567 604 570
TOTAL 3,468 3,417 3,374 3,423 3,484 3,553

            Source:  http://www.oir.umn.edu/static/hrdata/Employee_Head_Counts_2006_2013.pdf

2) The scholarship and fellowship expenditure per student grossly misrepresents the University’s student financial support. We believe IPS is using the wrong measure, but even so, we cannot accurately recreate the report’s claims based on the sources listed. The total amount of spending on scholarships has increased from 2005-06 to 2011-12 by 48.7%, and on a per student basis by 44.9%.

IPEDS data - University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Total gross scholarships and fellowships, & enrollment 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
    Scholarships $151,061,675 $162,241,780 $179,319,015 $188,334,157 $218,229,110 $227,477,680 $224,848,435
    Fall Enrollment 51,175 50,402 50,883 51,140 51,659 51,721 52,557
Scholarship/enroll $2,952 $3,219 $3,524 $3,683 $4,224 $4,398 $4,278

The institution makes financial aid available to students in two ways.  One is providing a direct payment to the student that can be used for any purpose related to the expenses of attending the U, such as books, transportation, or other costs.  The second is to provide a discount or allowance applied to the tuition and fees billed to the student.  In 2005-06 the University provided $60.4 million in scholarship payments and $90.7 million in discounts or allowances, for a total financial aid budget of $151.1 million.  In 2009 we made an accounting change to more accurately capture and report financial aid that is provided directly to students as tuition discounts, and in 2011-12 we provided $186.5 million in discounts and allowances, and $38.3 million in scholarship payments, for a total financial aid budget of $224.8 million.  The FY06 to FY12 increase is $73.7 million, or 48.7%.  It appears the IPS lacks understanding of how financial aid is tracked in IPEDS, and neglected to note the strong increase in overall scholarship support.

3) There is no dramatic increase in non-academic staff. Setting aside the definition problems, if you simply look at the University’s headcount data from 2006 to 2013, the number of employees in the faculty category (both full- and part-time) rose by 10.1%. The number of all other employees excluding graduate assistants (both full- and part-time) rose by 0.4%.

Employee Headcount – Twin Cities campus Fall 2006 Fall 2007 Fall 2008 Fall 2009 Fall 2010 Fall 2011 Fall 2012 Fall 2013
    Faculty 3,226 3,390 3,468 3,417 3,374 3,423 3,484 3,553
    All other staff 13,477 13,637 13,938 13,479 13,399 13,267 13,370 13,529
TOTAL 16,703 17,027 17,406 16,896 16,773 16,690 16,854 17,082

Source:  http://www.oir.umn.edu/static/hrdata/Employee_Head_Counts_2006_2013.pdf

4) The expenditure data appears to be simply wrong. Lacking transparency in the report about how IPS derived its numbers, we were unable to recreate IPS expenditure data and determine why the numbers misrepresent reality. By the University’s calculations, the report’s “administrative” expenditures (institutional support) are more than $1,000 per student too high.  The University has undertaken a much more extensive annual study of its costs in all categories and presents those results to the Board of Regents and the public on an annual basis.

It is also important to note that while this report depicts President Kaler and his peers on the cover, the purported timeframe the report examines includes just one year under the leadership of President Kaler, and a budget he had nominal input in shaping. President Kaler began his U of M post in July 2011 (i.e., the start of FY2012). The report fails to acknowledge changes the University implemented in 2012 to construct a strict senior leader compensation and separation policy.

The report also fails to mention many other positive and very significant changes under President Kaler’s leadership, some of which include:

  • freezing tuition for all undergraduate resident students on all five campuses for two years;
  • a commitment to $90 million in administrative cost savings by the end of FY2019 (the FY2015 budget recommended to Regents last week represents nearly $36 million toward that commitment by the end of FY2015);
  • significant investments in student scholarships, including the Promise Scholarship (provides $30 million in aid to more than 13,000 students), the president’s Emerging Scholars Program and Retaining all Our Students;
  • nearly $100 million in investments between FY13-FY15 for key academic priorities, including recruiting and retaining field-shaping faculty members; and
  • a reduction in the size of President Kaler’s senior leadership team.

Overall, the report misrepresents the University of Minnesota, attempts to paint a very sensational picture to support IPS’ thesis, and ignores the reality at our institution. While there is still work to do, the University of Minnesota is making strong progress in providing access to students, holding down student debt, reducing administrative costs and investing in students’ future education and needs.

Twin Cities Campus: