Falling Teaching Loads Drive up College Costs

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, March 22, 2013

The declining teaching load of tenured professors and tenure-track faculty has boosted the average cost of college per student by $2,598 annually, according to anew study by the Education Sector and The American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Between 1988 and 2004, the average number of classes that professors taught declined 25 percent -- from 3.6 to 2.7 courses per term. At research-intensive universities, the typical professor teaches just 1.8 courses.

According to the report, if teaching loads had not shrunk, over half of tuition increases during that period could have been avoided.

"This research shows that the rising cost of college cannot be blamed solely on external factors such as decreasing state appropriations or inflation," said Andrew Gillen, research director at Education Sector, a think-tank that specializes in educational policy. "Colleges can -- and must -- take steps on their own to stem the ever-increasing rate of tuition increases. Increasing teaching loads even marginally can have a tremendous impact on cost."

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