As state lawmakers move towards reducing administrative costs at Connecticut State University System following a barrage of criticism, administrators at CSUS are pointing to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education to prove they are not top-heavy.

In a report issued Friday, Acting Chancellor Louise H. Feroe says the federal figures show CSUS has only one administrator for every 200 full-time students–the second-highest student-administrator ratio in the Northeast. The report also says the proportion of CSUS staff that are in teaching positions is the highest among comparable higher education systems in the 11-state region, at 45 percent.

“It wasn’t surprising. I think that’s quite a good ratio,” Feroe said during an interview. “Lean administration is in fact the case here.”

In recent months, lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have questioned the administrative costs of the 36,500-student university system and called for more spending in the classroom.

Earlier this month, members of the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee unanimously approved a staff report saying the system has a full-time administrative staff of 729, with the average salary of $79,000. That translates to one administrator for every 50 full-time students, well shy of the 1:200 ratio CSUS is reporting.

Feroe said the discrepancy was produced by the committee staff labeling “administrators” as all the employees in several offices–including the financial affairs, admissions and registrars offices.

“Not all of those people are by any means administrators,” she said. “I think they are using the word [administrator] in a different way.”

The legislative report did report there were 118 “high-level” administrative jobs, which is one top administrator for every 309 students. The Connecticut Mirror’s independent analysis of the federal data found CSUS ranked third when compared to their 16 “peer institutions” for having the smallest percentage of full-time staff being top managers and administrators. At CSUS, 4 percent of all employees are high-level administrators. Rutgers University-Camden and the University of Southern Maine had a smaller percentage.

The CSUS report comes the day after state lawmakers on the Higher Education Committee unanimously voted to approve a bill that would eliminate numerous positions in CSUS’s central office, including chancellor. Malloy is also proposing eliminating the autonomy the central offices at CSUS, the Community College System, the Department of Higher Education and Charter Oak State College have long enjoyed and merge them under one Board of Regents.

“CSUS is the problem… We need a system that keeps them in check,” said Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury and co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee earlier this week.

CSUS has drawn fire in recent months over such issues as double-digit raises for top administrators and the questionable firing of a campus president while paying her full salary for one year.

Feroe said this report should dispel the notion that CSUS is spending too much on administration.

“Folks seemed hungry for a comparison,” she said. The PRI report did not compare CSUS to any other college or university.

“This is a nationally accepted definition and everyone is required to report this,” she said. “The point is every state is using this… We knew we were in the norm.”

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