Public higher education is generally a state government function, with local governments generally (and not always) responsible for community colleges. This brief post will compare the level of employment and payroll in different places for this function, using data from the 2012 Census of Governments. Higher education costs have exploded in recent decades, leaving a generation of former students deep in debt, but the reason is different for public colleges and universities than for private colleges and universities. In the private sector soaring amenities and rising staffing are primarily responsible. In the public sector, the cause of rising tuition is reduced tax-based support. Virtually nothing, except housing programs for low- and moderate-income people, has been cut as much in recent years as public higher education.
New York State is radically different than other states regarding public higher education, and public higher education is treated radically differently than other public services in New York State. The public employee unions dominate state and local government in New York the way the wealthy dominate the federal government, and the state legislature generally seeks to get the general public to pay more for less. Compared with other states, however, New York has squeezed public higher education workers to try to keep tuition down for students. Even in public higher education and even in New York State, however, one surprising fact has always bothered me. The number of full time equivalent non-instructional workers exceeds the number of full time equivalent instructional workers (ie. the professors). The charts and further commentary may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”