ASU responds to Goldwater Institute report

August 17, 2010

The Goldwater Institute report titled “Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education” by Jay Greene is seriously flawed at all levels, from the source of its data and the methodology that was used to the conclusions that it claims to have reached.

The standard English definition for administration refers to the management of an institution or organization. The federal database Greene uses to create his analysis (called the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS) clearly separates the two employee categories of Executive/administrative/managerial and Other professional (support/service). Greene attempts to mislead the public into believing that the university’s administration is “bloated” by combining these two categories and calling them administrators when that is not the case. “Other professional” includes staff whose primary responsibility is to support our students’ academic experience: academic advisors, financial aid counselors, career counselors, reference librarians, laboratory staff and literally hundreds of people who have nothing to do with the management of the institution. The effect is to inflate the number of staff categorized as administrators and distort the true picture. Download Full Image

The second flaw in the report is that by using a subset of the federal data, Greene was able to conveniently exclude technical, secretarial and service employees from consideration. The selected starting year was before the advent of the worldwide web and the widespread use of personal computers in higher education. The work world was a different place at that time, with secretaries providing support to faculty and students by handling routine typing and other general office work. Large numbers of positions in this category were eliminated as these tasks were absorbed by all staff members as part of the normal conduct of business. Excluding these positions from his dataset allowed Greene to conveniently ignore the fact that many of the positions that were added in institutional support were directly offset by reductions in clerical and other positions.

The third flaw in the report is that the author selectively chose his starting and ending points to magnify the increase in this category, which is more appropriately called institutional support. ASU’s institutional support spending in 1993 was significantly lower than in either the preceding or following years. Conversely, 2007 institutional support spending was significantly higher than the years preceding or following. The combined effect is to manipulate the data in order to show a greater increase than would have been possible with the selection of any other combination of starting and ending years in the last 20 years.

The fourth flaw in the report is that Greene selected a single data source, the federal IPEDS database. Although it is the only publicly available database, scrutiny of the data immediately shows inconsistency between universities and the way in which they account for different classifications of expenditures.  A researcher whose intent is to conduct a thorough and accurate analysis would have requested additional data and verified the accuracy of his information. At no point did Greene contact ASU to validate or further investigate the information contained in this database. As any stock or bond investor knows, a researcher who writes an opinion on the financial condition of an institution or corporation must use due diligence in the conduct and publication of his research. As any academic knows, a researcher who investigates and publishes on any subject is similarly obligated to use due diligence to verify the accuracy of his work and the validity of his findings. Greene met neither the standards of the financial markets nor the standards of his fellow academics.

The fifth flaw in the report is that Greene completely ignored output in his assessment. The university has two principal products, educated graduates and cutting-edge research. To assess only a subset of the inputs of a business without regard to the volume and quality of the products and services it produces is meaningless.

ASU is, in fact, one of the most efficient public research universities in the nation. It produces graduates at a cost that is 14 percent less than the average spending per degree at all public research universities and 30 percent less than that of its peers. Its sponsored research expenditures, which are a direct input to the state’s gross domestic product, have doubled in the last five years to more than $310 million.

The final flaw relates to the fundamental basis of comparison. As noted above, the world is a different place than it was in 1993, and today’s employers have different expectations when hiring new graduates. Many are looking for work experience that shows students can apply what they have learned in the classroom and work together in teams. International and/or service learning experience is oftentimes desired. Internships, community service, and study abroad programs provide this experience.

Many of these co-curricular learning activities – and these are just a few – do not fall under the typical instructional model, which assumes learning only takes place through an instructor standing in front of a classroom; yet they are vital to preparing our students for the global workplace that awaits them. As students receive more learning content and assistance on the computer, people providing computer support of the classroom learning system are counted as administrators by Greene. As ASU expands financial aid by hundreds of millions of dollars, the staff serving students’ financial aid needs are counted as administrators by Greene. As students get more services such as study abroad, internships, career placement and learning assistance, the staff providing the services are counted as administrators by Greene.

ASU is a free-market institution, competing for students, faculty, investment and research grants with hundreds of other institutions. As such, it is responsive to changes in the marketplace that impact its ability to deliver on its mission of service to the people of Arizona. If the university froze in time, continuing to operate as it did in 1993, it would be irrelevant and ineffective, like any other institution or corporation that refuses to grow and evolve. Instead, it has adapted and thrived, becoming one of the preeminent research universities in the nation, contributing more than $4.4 billion each year to the Arizona economy along with tens of thousands of jobs and more than 15,000 new graduates each year. While we thrive on challenge and value feedback and criticism, such criticism should be based on truth, not the disingenuous misinformation presented in this report.

Sharon Keeler

ASU industry research consortium poised to expand

August 18, 2010

Industry to benefit from SenSIP center’s new partnership with Texas research universities and National Science Foundation support

Opportunities will expand for industry members of one of the research consortiums in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Download Full Image

The Sensor, Signal and Information Processing center and consortium – known as SenSIP – has earned designation as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Collaborative Research Center.

The achievement elevates SenSIP to a partnership with a similar consortium of four leading Texas research universities.

“Our five industry members will benefit not only from our discoveries but also from the results of all the research projects” housed by the Texas Net Centric consortium and its nine or so industry partners, said SenSIP Director Andreas Spanias, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

SenSIP’s work focuses on technologies used in digital signal processing systems, data mining, wireless communications, information networks and multimedia systems.

The Net Centric consortium specializes in computer science and software solutions to ensure the security of information and communications networks – which are employed extensively in national defense operations.

“Our varied research strengths and areas of expertise are going to complement each other,” Spanias said. “That launches opportunities to compete for major research projects.”

SenSIP’s members include leading companies in the high-tech, defense, aerospace and communications industries, such as Intel, Lockheed Martin, National Instruments, Raytheon Missile Systems and Acoustic Technologies.

Spanias says a SenSIP membership agreement with LG communications is in final stages of negotiation, and several comparable corporations are considering membership in the consortium, including Sprint Communications, Qualcomm, and General Dynamics.

Net Centric is made up of research leaders at the University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas-Dallas and the University of Texas-Arlington. Its industry members include Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, Boeing, Cisco Systems, T-Systems, Codekko and GlobeRanger, among others.

“Our alliance with Net Centric gives our members access to potential advances in a broader array of emerging technologies,” Spanias said.

SenSIP offers extensive expertise in signal and information analysis, information extraction from wireless sensor networks, multimedia communications and networks, low power systems, and video and audio signal processing.

The consortium researchers have provided the mathematical and algorithmic groundwork for technology used in security systems, consumer electronics, medicine and health care, computer software systems, media technology, nanotechnology research, environmental management, defense applications, global positioning systems and antenna systems.

They have contributed, for instance, to development of tools and devices for the improved performance of cell phones, radar systems, global positioning and mapping, and radio communication networks.

A recent project involves experimenting with sensing devices in efforts to improve the efficiency and productivity of technologies used to generate electrical energy from sunlight.

Net Centric’s researchers are working on advances in the specifications, modeling, analysis, design, implementation, verification and validation, testing, and deployment of information and communication networks.

More than 13 ASU engineering faculty members – primarily electrical and computer engineers – form the core group of SenSIP researchers. The consortium’s move into an NSF Industry/University Collaborative Research Center promises to enable the group to branch out in its research endeavors. That will likely allow it to tap the expertise of ASU bioengineers, medical researchers and experts in other areas of science and engineering.

The NSF will provide SenSIP $300,000 in the next five years to bolster its administrative resources. The consortium has the task of raising additional support of at least $750,000 from industry partners to expand its work.

SenSIP is one of six similar NSF university/industry collaborative centers in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Others are:

• Consortium for Embedded Systems (hardware and software design of single and multicore processors for computers)
• Water and Environmental Technology Center (water quality research)
• Power Systems Engineering Research Center (power systems and the “smart” energy grid)
• Center for Engineering Logistics and Distribution (distribution, transportation, manufacturing, information technologies and software solutions) 
• Connection One (telecommunications circuit and system technologies)


Andreas Spanias, spanias">">
professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
(480) 965-1837

Joe Kullman, joe.kullman">">
(480) 965-8122 direct line
(480) 773-1364 mobile
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering