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April 14, 2017

Much of the administrative growth at the University of Massachusetts Lowell came under now UMass President Marty Meehan. (peiflickr/Creative Commons)

If you enter the new student center at UMass Lowell and happen to stop and read the directory, you'll see a long list of provosts, chancellors, vice provosts and associate vice chancellors.

Faculty members point out these administrators have support staff not listed on the directory.

Thirty miles south, UMass Boston is facing a hiring freeze and cuts to classes and part-time professors as it struggles to close a $30 million budget deficit. Students and staff are calling for cuts in administrators, instead.

At UMass Lowell, a similar argument is being made, after federal data showed a dramatic rise in administrators.

Growing administrative ranks at colleges is a national trend, but the seven-fold increase on the Lowell campus over the past ten years stands out as one of the highest.

The chancellor says enrollment is up 50 percent, and the new administrators mostly provide services to students.

Some faculty members say the money would be better spent paying on professors.

"I don't know if these folks are redundant. I mean, it sure looks like it, doesn't it?" said Tess George, an adjunct professor who teaches public speaking at the school.

George criticizes UMass Lowell for hiring more administrators and paying them six-figure salaries, while adjunct faculty like her make about $20,000 a year.

"They're paying the people who stand in front of the students every day contract salaries,” George said. “They're paying them no benefits."

She says more administrators should raise questions for students and taxpayers.

Federal figures self-reported by the university show that between 2007 and 2015 the number of full-time management administrators at UMass Lowell jumped from about 50 to 360.

A spokesperson for UMass Lowell concedes the number has grown, but says part of that is explained by the fact that the federal government has changed the definition of certain jobs.

Across the country over the past 25 years, the number of administrators has increased twice as fast as the number of students, according to federal data.

Related: Administrative Bloat Victimizes Students At UMass – And Everywhere

To compete with prestigious private colleges, some public universities like UMass Lowell have built up their campuses and raised their national and research profiles.

"To attract those high-caliber students who see public universities as an alternative to very pricey private ones, they have had to add a lot of facilities and dorms and dining halls,” said Jon Marcus, a senior editor with The Hechinger Report, an independent non-profit news organization. “But how do they balance that with the need to control costs and remain affordable?"

At UMass Lowell, during much of the growth over the past decade, Marty Meehan was chancellor. He’s now the president of the UMass system.

At the time, Jacquie Moloney was Meehan's number two. Today, she is chancellor.

Asked why there has been so much administrative growth, Moloney points to UMass Lowell’s rise in national rankings.

"We're the second-fasting rising in U.S. News & World Report," Moloney said.

In fact, UMass Lowell has transformed itself from a commuter school to an institution that attracts students from 30 states and 63 countries. Since 2007, enrollment has jumped from about 12,000 to 18,000 students.

Half of those student live on campus, so Moloney says most of the administrative growth has been concentrated in student support.

"We added a lot of personnel in student affairs because for us it's recruitment and retention,” Moloney said. “It's reputation."

To further bolster that reputation, Moloney says UMass Lowell plans to continue growing strategically.

WGBH's Tristan Cimini contributed to this report.

Related: At UMass Boston, A Campus In Turmoil

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