The Teaching and Learning Workforce in Higher Education, 2024

Staffing and Budgets

Larger institutions are better able to create new positions and hire. Over half of respondents agreed that their institutions are able to successfully hire into existing positions and retain talent (56% and 55%, respectively), while fewer (37%) agreed that their institution is able to create new positions (see figure 8). Effectiveness in both creating new positions and hiring was related to FTE size. Compared to respondents from smaller institutions, more respondents from institutions with larger numbers of full-time enrollments agreed that their institution is able to create new positions and successfully hire new talent. For example, 45% of respondents from institutions with enrollments of 15,000 or more agreed their institution is able to create new positions, compared to 26% of respondents from institutions with enrollments of less than 2,000; 64% of respondents from institutions with enrollments of 15,000 or more agreed that their institution is able to successfully hire into existing positions, compared to 44% of respondents from institutions with enrollments of less than 2,000.

Figure 8. Staffing Capabilities (Creation of Positions, Hiring, Retention)

Financial constraints are the biggest challenge for staffing. Of those respondents who disagreed with the above statements, a majority (63%) said that there has been "some" or "a lot" of negative impact on their department/unit's services and operations. When asked what factors make recruitment and retention challenging at their institution, the most common factors identified were insufficient compensation and benefits, budget issues, and hiring freezes due to lower enrollments. In addition, the following staffing challenges emerged:

  • Poor campus climate due to ineffective leadership and a lack of consensus on strategic priorities
  • Lack of professional development and mobility and growth opportunities
  • Undesirable work location (cost of living, political climate, rural location)
  • No access to remote/hybrid work options
  • Lengthy hiring processes
  • Excessive workloads

We also asked these respondents what their institution could do to address staffing issues, and unsurprisingly, the number-one response was to offer more competitive salaries (79%), followed by increasing departmental and unit budgets (61%) (see figure 9).

Figure 9. How Respondents Think Staffing Issues Could Be Addressed
Bar chart showing percentage of respondents who thought each action would help address staffing issues:  Offer more competitive salaries (79%), Increase departmental budgets (61%), Provide opportunities for promotion (57%), Offer remote/hybrid work options (47%), Improve communication and decision-making (46%), Provide more flexibility at work (44%), Offer more realistic and fair workloads (41%), Improve institutional culture and values (40%), Provide opportunities for upskilling and reskilling (33%), Offer more competitive benefits (24%), Recruit more diverse applicant pools (18%), Other (9%).

Budget decreases are far reaching, impacting productivity, morale, and innovation. Over half of respondents (56%) reported that their department or unit has experienced budget changes within the past 12 months, with considerably more respondents reporting budget decreases (38%) than budget increases (18%) (see figure 10).

Figure 10. Budget Changes in the Past 12 Months
Donut chart showing budget changes in past 12 months: No change (23%), Decrease (38%), Increase (18%), Don’t know (21%).

Those reporting budget decreases identified a number of impacts on their department/unit, including staffing issues; a reduction in resources, support, and services for faculty and students (including access to technology and tools); fewer opportunities for professional development and travel; freezes on promotions and raises; fewer in-person events; and a reduction in essential purchases and spending such as on office supplies, classroom equipment, and everyday maintenance. Notably, respondents' comments highlighted how each of these effects snowballs into something bigger and far reaching, ultimately taking a toll on employee and student morale, workload and productivity, and an institution's ability to remain sustainable and competitive in a competitive market (especially by hindering creativity, innovation, and the ability to keep up with changing times and technologies).

"The combining of empty job positions into one means the person will accomplish less and the department will accomplish less. And the number of third-party technologies was slashed significantly due to budget cuts, so there are fewer options for faculty. I also lost access to one of the primary tools for my job as an accessibility specialist due to enterprise licensing costs. We are now forced to do certain tasks manually, which is a step backwards for productivity."

"IT's budget issues overall make it difficult to be innovative and to fund the latest options in teaching/learning. This makes it hard to stay competitive against other higher ed institutions and puts more cost on faculty/students if we can't fund the tools/resources that are needed. It also makes it incredibly difficult to recruit/retain high-quality personnel to support academic missions and priorities."

"We closed down our on-campus office and [now] work 100 percent remotely from home. Technology (PCs/laptops/software/etc.) is upgraded on a much less frequent schedule (as much as 5-7 years sometimes). Office supplies/professional development/etc. is nonexistent."

"We are not able to hire more people to replace people who left. A lot of people within my department are concerned about the pay, flexibility, and workload. There's only so much a person can do without an increase in compensation and being burnt out. Some people are ready to leave."

Those reporting budget decreases are most concerned about being laid off. Though many respondents reported budget and staffing challenges, they were surprisingly not overly concerned about the possibility of future layoffs. Only 16% of respondents were concerned about personally being laid off, though this slightly varied by position level and budget changes in the past 12 months. That is, top-level leadership had the least concerns about being laid off—just 7% of C-level executives and assistant or associate VPs were concerned about being laid off, compared to individual contributors (20%), directors (15%), and managers (14%). We also found that concerns about being laid off were greater for those who reported budget decreases in their department/unit. Of those who were concerned about being laid off, 51% reported budget decreases, while 13% reported budget increases. Finally, concerns about broader-level layoffs were somewhat higher—22% were concerned about the possibility of layoffs in their department/unit, and 37% were concerned about institution-level layoffs. Overall, despite decreased budgets, concern about layoffs may be relatively low at the aggregate level due to understaffing, necessitating the retention of current employees.