Wade through the comments on the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed stories on my new paper on teaching loads and you’ll find a lot of comments that don’t warrant a response. But if you look closely enough, there are a few comments and concerns that are worth addressing. I’ll address some of them here, with more to come in future posts.
Did I, as one commenter put it, just go “on a fishing trip to 1976 to find some convenient numbers to distort”?
No. Pretty much the only reliable source of publicly available data on teaching loads is the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. Unfortunately, this study was first conducted in 1987-88 and the most recently available data is from 2003-04 (see for yourself here). So my study analyzed the entire time period for which there is any data. That’s not cherry picking; that’s cutting down the whole orchard.
Are the cost estimates in the study “useless, not to mention embarrassingly silly” because they don’t account for the increasing reliance on adjuncts?
No. Just because something affects a college’s budget doesn’t mean that it also has an effect on the cost of lowering teaching loads for faculty. For example, the increase in a university president’s pay affects the budget, but it doesn’t have anything to do with how much it costs to lower faculty teaching loads. If a study came out that found that raising the president’s pay cost the university money, trying to argue that the finding is “useless, not to mention embarrassingly silly” because the university also replaced a bunch of full-time faculty with adjuncts is instantly recognized as being irrelevant to the question at hand. Similarly, the budgetary effect of replacing tenured faculty with adjuncts has nothing to do with how much it costs to lower the teaching loads of the full-time professors that remain.
Does the study assume that colleges always hired more full-time faculty when teaching loads were reduced, thus biasing the cost estimates?
Commenters were very confused about this issue. For instance, one commenter declares that “the report assumes that the most common way they manage increased research loads is to hire more full-time, tenure-track faculty” and another commenter claims that my cost estimates are based on the assumption that “when they reduce tenure-line faculty’s teaching loads, universities select the most expensive replacement alternative and hire more tenure-line faculty.”
Both are mistaken. On page 5 of the study, I clearly explain:
It should be emphasized that this analysis focuses on the number of classes currently taught by full-time faculty… the analysis does not assume that colleges always hire more full-time faculty when they reduce teaching loads. Such an assumption would result in an overestimate of the increase in costs… (Emphasis added)
Photo Credit: Minding the Campus
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.