Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott (Andrew Innerarity/Reuters)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is preparing to undermine higher education in his state, kicking off his efforts with a request for huge amounts of information about how Florida’s state universities function, from “information about the salaries and number of courses taught by each university’s highest-paid employees” to “measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation.”

Scott is interested in modeling “reforms” to higher education in Florida on Rick Perry’s efforts in Texas. Proposals there have included tying professor bonuses to teaching evaluations (a great way to make sure that professors give out all A’s to avoid pissing students off), treating research as separate from teaching (because everyone wants their kids taught by professors who are 20 years out of date in their fields), and calculating how much revenue professors generate through how many students they teach, and determining whether they are in the red or in the black.

Note that all these reforms take aim at professors—the people actually in classrooms working with students. You don’t hear much about university administrators. But, according to theChronicle of Higher Education, for the 12 straight years leading up to 2009, senior administrator salaries rose by more than the rate of inflationMeanwhile, between 1986 and 2005, “faculty pay grew by only a quarter of a percentage point, adjusted for inflation.” Additionally,

The AAUP’s 2008 faculty-salary report points out that from 1976 to 2005, the number of full-time college administrators (vice presidents and deans, for example), rose by 101 percent, while the number of full-time nonfaculty professionals (in student services, development, and information technology, for example) rose by 281 percent. Over the same period, the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members rose by only 17 percent.

In other words, faculty are hardly the place to look in explaining rising costs, yet when Republican governors like Rick Perry and Rick Scott look to make higher education more affordable and accountable, faculty are where they take aim, even as they hire more expensive consultants and administrators. In Texas, for instance, the UT Board of Regents hired someone at a salary of $200,000 who had argued that professors who do research as well as teaching should be replaced by instructors to save money. And do you really think that Rick Scott desires like “measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation” will be arrived at without hiring a fleet of consultants or new administrators to develop a plan, even as teaching gets cut? (Never mind that the way to keep new college graduates in the state would be if there were jobs there, instead of the current unemployment rate of 10.7 percent.)

If the Ricks Scott and Perry were really interested in cutting higher education costs while maintaining or improving educational standards, they’d be looking at administrators, not faculty. But as we know, what they say they want to do and what they actually want to do are frequently two entirely different things.