Economist's study links tuition, faculty workload
Full-time professors at the nation's largest research universities teach fewer classes, driving up the cost of tuition, a study concludes.
Economist Andrew Gillen, its author, projected that public research universities including Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh — for which state subsidies have plummeted by tens of millions of dollars in recent years — could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue if each full-time professor taught one more class per semester.
“We have for some time been outraged that, whenever there is a drop in state appropriations, the only recourse for public universities has been to take it out on the students with higher tuition. ... This is where we begin to explode that argument,” said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which sponsored the study with the Education Sector.
Officials at Penn State disputed the report's findings, asserting faculty workloads have been constant for a decade.
“We have tracked workload and our resources pretty closely at Penn State for a number of years. ... We do see it as an issue of employing scarce resources responsibly to get the university's work done effectively and efficiently,” said spokeswoman Lisa Powers.
Pitt officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Gillen concluded that research universities could have avoided just more than half of tuition increases between 1988 and 2004 had faculty courseloads not declined from an average of 3.6 classes per semester to 2.7 per semester. Although the data are the most current available, the report offers anecdotal evidence that the trend continues.
Poliakoff said tenured faculty typically teach two or fewer courses a semester at many research schools. Penn State was featured in an academic journal two years ago after boosting teaching requirements in its English Department, requiring professors to teach two classes a semester with 25 students each.
Higher teaching loads would allow more students to be taught with the same number of professors without boosting costs, Gillen wrote.
He estimated Penn State could generate $225.3 million from new in-state students if each of 1,748 professors taught one more class per semester. At Pitt, such a move would create an extra 1,557 classes and generate another $166 million in tuition.
The report said teaching responsibilities declined in recent decades as schools began emphasizing faculty research.
Officials at Penn State maintain that trend lowered the cost of instruction because research grants offset a portion of faculty salaries, allowing the university to tap the difference to hire instructors to take up the slack.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Ronald Tomalis, secretary of the state Department of Education, suggested universities need to do more with less state money when they slashed state subsidies two years ago. But they hesitated to endorse Gillen's conclusions.
“While it appears that, according to the report, additional revenues could be realized, it's somewhat challenging to say for certain, without knowing how each university operates on a day-to-day basis as well as how each university manages their faculty members' courseload,” Education Department spokesman Timothy Eller said, adding that faculty research often provides opportunities for students.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. she can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 1 killed, 4 hurt as police chase ends in Oakland crash
- Pittsburgh police solve fewer homicides
- Pittsburgh settles former police trainee’s disability discrimination lawsuit
- Plum officials reassess equipment policy after sexual assault case
- Allegheny County to increase restaurant penalties
- Plum teacher’s lawyer says latest allegations don’t measure up
- Duquesne man arrested again for Megan’s Law violations
- Detour signs highlight woes expected in Bigelow and Baum projects in Pittsburgh
- Security cameras, more police planned at Monroeville Mall
- Newsmaker: Sara Mantick
- Pittsburgh police find missing 75-year-old man