What Drives Instructional Costs in Two-Year Colleges: Data from the Kansas Study of Community College Instructional Costs and Productivity: In Community Colleges, Who Delivers Instruction Is More Important in Driving Costs Than What Is Taught

By Seybert, Jeffrey A.; Rossol, Patrick M. | Planning for Higher Education, April-June 2010 | Go to article overview

What Drives Instructional Costs in Two-Year Colleges: Data from the Kansas Study of Community College Instructional Costs and Productivity: In Community Colleges, Who Delivers Instruction Is More Important in Driving Costs Than What Is Taught


Seybert, Jeffrey A., Rossol, Patrick M., Planning for Higher Education


Introduction

Over the past 25 years, higher education has come under increased pressure to become more accountable in containing costs and more effective and efficient in managing human and fiscal resources. Zemsky and Massy (1990, p. 22), in an important article in Change titled "Cost Containment: Committing to a New Economic Reality" contend that higher education institutions have reduced faculty teaching and advising loads in favor of other non-teaching, non-student-centered activities to the point where "undergraduates are paying more to attend institutions in which they receive less faculty attention than in previous decades" Henry Rosovsky (1992, p. 3A), former dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard University, argues that faculty, when viewed as a social organism, operate

   without a written constitution and with
   very little common law. That is a poor
   combination, especially when there is no
   consensus concerning duties or standards
   of behavior.... Faculty behavior has
   been quite rational and understandable,
   given the absence of constraints.

Criticism of faculty is not limited to scholarly publications. Mel Elfin, former executive editor of U.S. News & World Report's annual college ranking survey, contends that faculty are a major factor in escalating tuitions: "Rarely mentioned are the on-campus causes of the tuition crisis: declining teaching loads, ... ballooning administrative hierarchies, ... and inflated course offerings. If colleges and universities were rated on their overall financial acumen, most would be lucky to escape with a passing grade" (Elfin 1996, p. 92).

In 1997, the U.S. Congress created a National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education. The commission was charged with the responsibility for developing recommendations that would guide and inform public policy with respect to cost containment. Among the recommendations of the commission was a call for

   individual institutions, acting with
   technical support from appropriate
   higher education associations, [to]
   conduct efficiency self-reviews to
   identify effective cost-saving steps that
   are relevant to institutional mission and
   quality improvement. Academic leaders
   should communicate the results of
   these self-reviews widely, providing
   the campus community and institutional
   constituents with information on such
   issues as ... faculty teaching loads,
   average class size, [and] faculty and
   student ratios. (Harvey et al. 1998, p. 16)

As they deal with the current recessionary economy and a constriction of public funding similar to that of the early 1990s, most colleges face the question of how best to reallocate existing resources to fund new and meritorious initiatives in the absence of new revenue streams and/or growth in existing revenue streams. In any resource allocation model and within the context of a college's mission, those entities that are most productive and cost effective over time will be sustained, while those that are inefficient and less productive may be cut back. Clear and consistent measures of instructional costs and productivity can be developed on any campus (e.g., Middaugh and Hollowell 1992).

Historically, information on faculty teaching loads has been routinely collected by university data sharing consortia such as the Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE), the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS), and the Southern University Group (SUG). However, these data are limited in scope and shared solely among members of the respective consortia, consortia membership is restricted and exclusive, and none of these consortia include community colleges. In addition to their general inaccessibility, the data collected by these organizations are not tied in any way to instructional costs.

While prior to 2004 there was no process for collecting data on instructional productivity and costs at the academic discipline level in two-year colleges, a four-year college and university prototype did exist. …

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