Local News

Bowles chides chancellors for 'embarrassing' administrative costs

Posted August 30, 2009 12:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2009 10:19 p.m. EDT

— An email sent by UNC System President Erskine Bowles chided university chancellors for growing administrative costs and told them to target such costs while cutting budgets.

"We have discussed the need to pare administrative costs REPEATEDLY at Chancellors' meetings," wrote Bowles, adding capital letters for emphasis.

"And we have made it crystal clear that any further delay in reducing senior and middle management positions would jeopardize our credibility and standing with the General Assembly and the taxpayers of North Carolina," he continued.

All UNC campuses are cutting their budgets by 10 percent. The new state budget decreases funding by 6 percent, and schools must cut  another 4 percent in case of more revenue shortfalls.

Administrative costs became an issue after a 100-page report found that UNC-Chapel Hill's administrative expenses per student have grown faster than academic expenses. The report said that UNC-CH has 10 layers of management, in which more than half of supervisors oversee three or fewer people. Changing that structure could save the university up to $12 million annually.

Other campuses in the UNC system are studying the report.

Bowles cited coverage of the report by The News & Observer as "an absolute embarrassment." Chancellors must heed the calls for greater efficiency that he has repeated in his nearly four-year tenure as UNC system president, Bowles said.

Administrative costs should be cut and academics strengthened as chancellors determine where to reduce funding, he wrote.

"Hear me loud and clear," Bowles wrote, "we will be looking for absolute PROOF that you have focused FIRST on administrative reductions and solid evidence that you have taken steps to shore up your core academic services."

Without that proof, the Board of Governors will not approve universities' spending cuts, he wrote.

Bowles said he plans to meet Monday with all chancellors to discuss budget cuts.