How to Reduce College Costs: More Teaching?

So college costs are rising. Perhaps college could get cheaper if professors only taught more.

According to a new paper published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity:

Preliminary data from the University of Texas… suggest that the state of Texas could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half….

Since many Texas academics have very low teaching loads, the authors reason, they could just teach more and get paid the same amount they’re getting paid now. According to the study, if every professor at UT Austin taught as many classes as professors who taught the most classes “then the University would require a faculty only 34% its present size. This could potentially save up to $323 million in total loaded costs for faculty.”

Leaving aside the validity of this particular study—it’s based on preliminary data about one school, which apparently emphasized that it did “not want analyzed” for such purposes—it seems that this whole project might be a purely intellectual exercise.

Even if colleges could make professors teach more without reducing the quality of their research, it’s unlikely increasingly course loads would actually reduce the cost of college. It seems more likely that colleges would just use the savings to pay for other things.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer