• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


An Amazing Dissertation Topic for Any Ed.D. Students Out There…

How to measure the benefits of one position vs. another.

September 16, 2015

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re in a position to make position allocation decisions for part of a community college. You have enough funding to cover a few positions, but far fewer than you would like, so some departments will have to be disappointed. And let’s say that you’re focused on student success, and actually trying to do the right thing.

How do you compare the return on investment of, say, a full-time librarian as against a full-time professor? To keep the question simple, let’s assume that the salaries are roughly equal. And I’ll assume that both are positive influences.

At a really basic level, the cost of each could be measured against replacements, whether hourly staff in the library or adjuncts for the faculty. But the cost side isn’t really the tricky part. It’s weighing the benefit to the institution of one as against the other.

How would you quantify the benefit of each?

As a nonprofit, I’m not only looking at the fiscal benefit. Does one have a greater impact on student success than the other?

I’m looking for a few things:

  • What data would you look at?  
  • If necessary, how would it be tracked or gathered?
  • What unit of analysis would you use? Graduations? Course completions?

I can’t be the first administrator to wonder about this. I’m guessing that the first person to come up with a useful method for answering the question will be very well received.

So, quantitative scholars of higher education, the gauntlet is thrown. How would you measure the ROI of one against the other?


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