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WILLIAMS is the second-oldest college in Massachusetts. Its bucolic campus hosts just under 2,000 undergraduates, attracted by its small size, traditional liberal arts curriculum and generous faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 7. Attention from teachers is usually what one has in mind when selecting a small college like Williams, and when writing the hefty checks that it asks for. But what may surprise parents is where much of their money is going: the proportion of administrators to students matches that of teachers.

Williams’s annual report to the Department of Education reveals that of 1,017 total employees, 720, or over 70 percent, are doing something other than teaching. Among them are 84 coaches, 73 fund-raisers, a 42-member information-technology crew and a staff of 29 at its art museum. The college has a “baby-sitting coordinator,” a “spouse/partner employment counselor” and a “queer life coordinator.”

Are all these positions necessary?

The administrative overload at Williams mirrors a national trend. In 1976, for every 1,000 full-time students, there were 42 professional administrative staff members, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2008, the most recent year available, there were 84. At the same time, the number of full-time faculty members for every 1,000 students has declined, from 65 to 55, due to the greater use of adjuncts and teaching assistants.

While fewer undergraduates are being taught by full-time professors, the number of administrators keeps growing.

For a look at these positions, we examined employment openings advertised in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the past, typical postings would be from colleges seeking, say, a new provost or a registrar. Here are just a few posts of recent vintage: vice president for student success, residential communications coordinator, credential specialist, dietetic internship director, director of active and collaborative engagement, and coordinator of learning immersion experiences.

Each of these offices certainly has a plausible rationale. The Williams babysitting service helps faculty parents as well as students who want to make extra money. And since it isn’t easy being gay or lesbian while away at college, a queer life coordinator can help such students focus on their studies.

But being a useful service does not mean it’s necessary. Or that the service needs an administrator and a staff. Or, for that matter, that it enhances the college’s educational mission, even indirectly. And administrators don’t simply absorb salaries. They also need physical space.

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Thanks to “Yet Another P’12” for the link

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