Affordable Higher Ed

Here’s an interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The author argues that if teachers taught more, then the cost of college would greatly reduce — by as much as half!

Teaching Loads and Affordability: The University of Texas Data

May 23, 2011, 1:19 pm

By Richard Vedder

A recently released Pew/Chronicle survey of American attitudes towards colleges shows that 75 percent disagree with the proposition that “college costs…are such that most people can afford to pay for a college degree.” A majority (57 percent) think that college these days is either “only fair” or ‘”poor” as a value. In that light, more effort is being made to control college costs and enhance the value proposition.

The quintessential battle is now raging in Texas. Governor Perry appropriately wants higher productivity and lower costs, calling for a degree costing only $10,000 in tuition fees. New data suggest that goal is within reach at the state’s most prestigious public university, the Austin campus of the University of Texas.

Pressured by reform groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the University of Texas has released a 821-page document on faculty at that institution: their salaries and benefits (and sources of funding them), teaching loads, research awards, tenure status, and in some cases grading and student-evaluation data. UT begged people to not engage in analysis of the data, saying it is preliminary. But the numbers are so compelling that a team of Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) associates headed by Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe has started analyzing that data, and CCAP has issued a preliminary report of findings.

As with earlier data from Texas A & M (also released reluctantly), the UT data show huge disparities in salaries between disciplines, campuses, alternative tenure status, levels of research involvement, and the like. Professors with $300,000 salaries are working alongside those making a small fraction of that amount. A surprising number of faculty teach large numbers of students (a few teach as many as 1,000 students annually), for low per-student costs, while others teach literally a single-digit number for huge salaries. We found, among full-time staff, that the 20 percent of faculty with the highest teaching load taught 57 percent of all student credit hours, and accounted for 28 percent of faculty costs, while the lowest 20 percent classified by teaching load taught a paltry 2 percent of the total but accounted for 9 percent of the cost.

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I agree. The whole “publish or perish” challenge sounds daunting to those outside academe since most people don’t have to publish to keep their jobs in accounting, secondary education, sales or what have you. Publishing isn’t that hard. When I taught in the summer, I worked the same hours that tenure track professors work and it was like a vacation. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

We should adjust our publishing requirements anyway. In many fields it just encourages spurious work anyway. Society doesn’t need information clutter.

Yes, there’s prep time, but that’s not an insurmountable challenge. Have lower paid new teachers teach less. Once a prof has taught History 101 or History 305, she can tweak it, but it’s not like she needs to start from scratch every year. As one gains experience, one can take on more and get compensated accordingly.

Yes, some may whine that they have committee work. Well, so do people who want to take on leadership or other roles within their companies and organizations. It’s nothing unusual.

Sabbaticals should go or be changed as well.