Friday, November 30, 2007

A Businessman’s Thoughts About Higher Education

By: Don Bunker

A clear historical picture of productivity in Higher Education would change most people’s perception of what is needed to fix the cost problems chronicled about Higher Education.

During a recent debate in a Colorado State Legislative campaign, it was stated by the conservative candidate that the productivity for the average professor at the University of Colorado, had reduced from 15 credit hours taught per semester in 1955 to 5.5 credit hours per professor in 2005. As a Colorado resident I wondered how true this “statistic” really was?

If the average bricklayer’s productivity was recorded to lay 600 bricks per day in 1955, even the most uneducated person can appreciate that a brick layer, laying 220 bricks in 2005 is unacceptable and think new management is in order.

Teaching 5-three credit hour classes seems reasonable, it requires 15 hours of being in the class room per week and allows 25 hours for preparation, meetings and testing. Frequently the 5 courses taught would actually be the same course taught multiple times or similar courses taught multiple times. 5.5 credit hours per semester sounds like 220 bricks a day.

So why don’t we find out what the historical productivity trend really is, since productivity translates to number of employees and number of employees equals cost in a labor-intensive activity such as education?

Mr. Bunker is a former Vice President of Operations for a major computer equipment manufacturer.

1 comment:

speechteach said...

Two things:

(1) Your calculations assume a teaching-centered college. So, your expectations are totally in line with those at the Community College level and close to those at a state college without a large research/grant/publishing burden. But, for a large "research 1" institution, faculty are expected to write grants, bring in funding to their school, do research, publish articles, write books, etc. in order to get and maintain their tenure tracks. This expectation is often not considered when outsiders are evaluating the workload of professors.

(2) There are some professors who have little to NO in-class expectations for a year or more due to their research and writing expectations. So, the calculation you have presented is probably somewhat skewed by that.

Anyways, I don't work at a Research I institution (thank goodness), but faculty going for tenure are still expected to research and publish to get their tenure. So, maybe a small adjustment in your calculation would be more realistic.

I would also say that more and more institutions are increasing class size. This also dramatically effects the hours spent outside of the classroom in prep and grading.

Just my $.02