AUSTIN – Modest increases in teaching loads at the University of Texas at Austin would produce hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to taxpayers and students, according to a preliminary analysis of faculty data released today by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP).
“These findings bring to light very real opportunities to provide a better education to students at vastly lower costs while preserving UT-Austin’s ability to conduct world-class research,” said David Guenthner, the Foundation’s senior communications director. “The data conclusively demonstrates that there is room for a greater emphasis on classroom instruction, while preserving UT-Austin’s prized Tier One status.”
Key findings of the CCAP analysis:
– The 20 percent of faculty with the highest teaching loads teach 57 percent of the total student credit hours per year. These professors teach the equivalent of three classes per semester with 56 students per class. This top quintile also generates 18 percent of the campus’ research funding, meaning that they are also pulling their weight on research. – The bottom 80 percent of faculty teach an average of 63 students per year, the equivalent of three classes per year of 21 students each. – The bottom 20 percent of faculty only carry 2 percent of the total student credit hours per year. This quintile also brings in a disproportionately low 13 percent of external research funding: of these 840 faculty members, 704 generate no research funding. – The full amount of UT-Austin’s external research funding is generated by only 982 of its 4,362 faculty members – 23 percent.
The CCAP analysis included a series of scenarios that show the cost savings that could be generated by boosting teaching productivity, and how those savings could be used to reduce tuition and/or state subsidies to the university. In one scenario where the faculty outside the top quintile are brought up to a teaching load of three classes per semester with 25 students per class, enough savings would be generated to reduce tuition from almost $9,000 a year to $4,250 – well below the levels in place prior to the 2003 tuition deregulation.
“The norm in academia for a full teaching load is three courses per semester,” Guenthner said. “That teaching load is not an undue burden to professors. Setting it as the expectation at UT-Austin would improve the quality of instruction that students receive. Most importantly, it would put the cost of a UT education back within the means of Texas middle-class families.”
The CCAP analysis is based on faculty productivity data requested by the University of Texas System Regents in February for its task force on university excellence and productivity. The data was publicly released on May 5th in response to an open-records request by the San Antonio Express-News. Due to anomalies in the data set, approximately 4 percent of UT-Austin faculty members were excluded from the analysis.
“We appreciate the persistence of the University of Texas System regents in seeking this data for their own evaluation,” Guenthner said. “Figuring out how an enterprise is allocating resources and what return it is getting for those activities is not micromanagement – it’s basic management. This type of data will help the UT regents produce better results for students, taxpayers, and our state.”
David Guenthner is senior communications director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.
The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) is an independent, nonprofit research center based in Washington, DC that is dedicated to researching public policy and economic issues relating to postsecondary education. CCAP aims to facilitate a broader dialogue that challenges conventional thinking about costs, efficiency and innovation in postsecondary education in the United States.
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