Colleges and universities could educate more students or cut costs considerably if they asked professors to teach more courses, says a report issued Wednesday by Education Sector and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The report uses information from Education Department surveys on the teaching loads of tenured and tenure-track faculty members to argue that there has been a serious erosion in the average number of courses taught by faculty members. "From 1987-1988 to 2003-2004, the average number of courses tenured and tenure-track faculty taught per term ... declined 25 percent. It is hard to overstate how dramatic this decline has been. For example, liberal arts colleges tend to specialize in teaching, and yet professors at liberal arts colleges taught less in 2003-2004 than professors at research universities did in 1987-1988," the report says. "All of this matters because low teaching loads are extremely costly. At four-year universities, the decline in teaching loads has increased costs by $2,598 per student."
The report notes limitations on the data, particularly that this particular survey has not been conducted since 2003-4.
Faculty leaders questioned the findings and methodology. Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, noted that the report starts by stating that faculty salaries often make up a majority of college budgets. He noted Education Department data showing that faculty salaries make up less than 30 percent of costs at community colleges, and less than 20 percent at four-year colleges. Fichtenbaum said that the calculations of student savings were thus based on a false assumption about the role of faculty salaries in college budgets. Further, he noted that the salaries of full-time faculty members have been declining as a share of all instructional expenses.
Craig Smith of the American Federation of Teachers said via e-mail that the report "uses outdated data and a simplistic argument to blame faculty for the rising cost of college." Smith noted that colleges have shifted more and more instruction to non-tenure-track faculty members, who tend to be paid only for teaching and on a course-by-course basis. "This report appears to willfully ignore the increasing reliance on underpaid and under-supported contingent faculty and the resulting increased demands on the shrinking number of tenure-track faculty to handle responsibilities outside of the classroom," he said.
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling that Oklahoma State University isn't entitled to refunds from a controversial insurance-based fund-raising campaign that didn't work out as planned, The Stillwater NewsPress reported. The idea was to take out life insurance policies on wealthy supporters of the university's athletics program, with the athletics program as the beneficiary. When the supporters didn't die on roughly the expected timetable, however, the university canceled the policies and sued the insurance company, saying it hadn't provided accurate information. But a district court judge and now the U.S. Court of Appeals found no evidence of fraud by the insurance company.
The American Council on Education on Tuesday named 50 faculty members and administrators to its Fellows Program. The program, in which participants work with executives at other colleges from those that employ them, is known as a stepping stone to top positions in higher education -- more than 300 fellows have gone on to presidencies. The new fellows may be found here.
A new analysis from California Watch suggests that California's cash-strapped community colleges could save millions of dollars by sharing administrators. "More than half of the state’s community college districts are within 20 miles of another district. And the vast majority of those districts have a single college," says the report. Some of those quoted in the report say that such colleges should be combined into new districts at the same time, saving time and money on governing boards as well.
The University of Texas Board of Regents, already accused of micromanaging the president of the University of Texas at Austin, has ordered him not to delete any e-mails, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Some regents have been gathering information on Bill Powers, the president, and are widely believed to want to force him out of office. Powers has backing from the faculty, student and alumni leaders. A spokesman for Powers said he was complying with the request. But State Senator Kirk Watson called the regents' order "extraordinarily disappointing," adding that "its breadth under the guise of a specific review begs the question for the motivation of the request. What’s the purpose? Why the global reach?”
Leading universities such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully lobbied for the defeat of proposed new ways for the government to pay for research overhead, The Boston Globe reported. Currently universities negotiate rates for a percentage of grants awarded that they receive to cover overhead expenses. Harvard's rate is 69 percent, which is much higher than most rates. The Obama administration wanted to shift to a single flat rate for all institutions, but leading universities opposed the idea and it has now been withdrawn.
A former student found shot to death in his dormitory room at the University of Central Florida killed himself after abandoning a plan to attack the campus, The Orlando Sentinelreported. Authorities said that James Oliver Seevakumaran had failed to register for spring classes but had remained in the dorm. They said he had multiple weapons and explosives and had reportedly pulled a fire alarm early Sunday morning, with the aim of shooting students as they sought to leave the dorm. But he apparently altered his plan, returned to his room, and shot himself in the head.
Rebecca M. Blank, acting U.S. secretary of commerce, was named Monday as the next chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, pending formal approval by the Board of Regents. Blank's career as an economist has included positions in government and academe. From 1999-2008, she was dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. David Ward, a former chancellor, has been serving as interim chancellor at Madison since July 2011. At that time, Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin ended a three-year term -- which included controversy over her proposals to give Madison more autonomy from the state -- to become president of Amherst College.