Both the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed covered the details of my new study on teaching loads. But the critics so far probably need to read the report more closely. A case in point is in the IHE story:
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.
There is a lot of misdirection packed into that small passage. First, Fichtenbaum contests my statement in the report, “Faculty salaries often account for the majority of a university’s spending.” Unless he wants to try and argue that 929—the number of institutions for which instructional spending was the majority of their spending—doesn’t qualify as “often,” this doesn’t seem debatable to me.
Fichtenbaum then argues that “the calculations of student savings were thus based on a false assumption.” I clearly lay out in the study how I calculated the savings, and it has nothing to do with any assumption about how important faculty salaries are in the overall budget. Rather, I use campus-level data on staff and salaries, reported by the institutions themselves.
This is an important lesson on why you need to understand a study before going on the record attacking it.
Photo Credit: Any College
Update: We recently learned that some of the information in Selling Students Short, a policy paper written by ES Research Director Andrew Gillen, was based on incorrect information. As a result we have withdrawn the paper from our website. We regret the error. Read our full statement here, and a longer explanation here.