Malloy wants to vet non-faculty hires by colleges and universities

Concerned that the state’s public colleges and universities are spending too much on administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to require that all non-teaching hiring at the state’s public colleges and universities be approved by his budget office.

“It’s an added control mechanism that we make sure we are actually spending as much money as we possibly can in classrooms as opposed to in administration positions,” Malloy said Thursday. “So I think it’s a good idea to have someone keeping an eye on it.”

Non-faculty staff–which includes administration, maintenance, health service, public safety, financial services and information technology staff–comprise nearly 70 percent of full-time employees at the University of Connecticut. At the Connecticut State University System and the state’s 12-campus community college system, the faculty-staff ratio is closer to 50-50, according to a State Department of Higher Education report.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in non-faculty. Some of it is understandable but given the track record we’ve seen in the last 20 years, a little more engagement on position control is worth it,” said Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti.

Over the last 20 years, as enrollment increased by 24 percent at the public institutions, there were 1,955 new faculty positions created compared with an additional 3,993 non-faculty positions, according to the 2009 SDOHE report.

A breakdown by the institution shows at UConn and CSUS’ four campuses and central office the majority of new positions were non-faculty. At the community colleges the majority of growth was in teaching positions.

University and college officials, who have enjoyed hiring decision autonomy for the last 20 years, are not supportive of the change.

“It’s going to delay things,” said Richard J. Balducci, acting chairman of the CSUS Board of Trustees. “You are talking about adding another level, and anytime you do that you add time…. Now it’s done in a relatively quick fashion. I think the process works.”

Ben Barnes, who heads the budget office that would review hiring decisions, disagrees it would slow the process down.

“It’s all done electronically. It doesn’t sit for more than a day. We are not talking about a lot of time,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the governor and [the Office of Policy and Management] to ask for justification.”

“We are not in the business of second guessing their decisions, but if they want to hire 15 custodians we just want to make sure there are vacant positions and that they have money to do that,” he added. “I would rather they not be hiring new people if it means some faculty may be laid off.”

Colleges have made their hiring decisions independently since 1991, when the public institutions were given almost complete fiscal autonomy through a block grant system. This decision followed a government efficiency report that concluded the then-current higher education budgeting process was ineffective and overly restrictive. The legislature trimmed the state’s contribution to higher education, but gave university officials authority to decide how nearly all dollars were spent.

Mary Anne Cox, assistant chancellor for the community colleges, also has concerns with the proposal.

“That would be a disadvantage for our colleges,” she said, adding it is “shifting the decision to an office that doesn’t understand higher education like we do.”

In a report given to Malloy’s transition team, the community colleges said state lawmaker involvement could cause major issues.

“Excessive oversight, unnecessary regulations, and redundant levels of approval for many administrative activities often undermine the ability of the Community Colleges to efficiently respond to the needs of students, our business partners and the communities we serve,” it reads.

Malloy’s proposal will need to be approved by state lawmakers and college and university officials will have a chance to provide input on the change during public hearings before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, which begin Thursday night.