The UNC system represents a huge chunk of the state’s General Fund budget — close to 12%, or $2.5 billion. I talked about the UNC system budget with Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. She offered some specific ideas for ways to pare back the UNC budget.

Martinez: You’ve written … about your recommendations for where they could actually look for some savings. Let’s talk about some of those. The first one, you say, is that they’ve got some unnecessary administrators. Ouch. Tell us about that.

Robinson: Many of the schools — and this is by no means all of them — but particularly the large schools have far, far too many administrators. All the schools have more administrators than faculty members, and I think that’ll surprise a lot of people. They think that the primary employees at a university are the faculty members. But if you add up the clerical, professional, and paraprofessional staff — so this is not including the dining hall staff and things like that, these are administrators — if you add up all the administrators, they outnumber the faculty. And at UNC-Chapel Hill, they actually outnumber the faculty 5-1. And if you’re doing your math, that’s one administrator for every four students.

Martinez: Is it like that on every campus?

Robinson: UNC-Chapel Hill is the worst offender, but none of them, as I said, have fewer administrators than faculty members.

Martinez: So you’re recommending that they take a look at that and maybe move some people around or say, “Well, we don’t need quite as many.”

Robinson: Absolutely.

Martinez: What about the faculty, Jenna? We tend to think, at least I do, that there are professors who are just in classrooms all day long, and the kids are coming in and out, and what they do is teach all day. What is that load really like?

Robinson: There are some schools where that’s the case. They are teaching three or four classes per semester. But at our large research universities, sometimes they’re not even teaching two classes per semester. So in those situations, we think that it would be better for faculty members, tenure-track faculty members, to teach more and to use adjunct faculty less. Obviously if you use a faculty member to teach a course and don’t have to employ an adjunct, that saves the university money. But it’s also a benefit for the students, who, when they go to schools, they look at those student-faculty ratios. They want and expect to have a faculty member in the class with them.

Martinez: Is that typical on university campuses across the country, that faculty is really teaching so few classes?

Robinson: There’s a lot [of] variation, but at large research universities like N.C. State and Chapel Hill and their peer institutions, it’s very common that faculty spend less than 40 percent of their time in the classroom.