Kansas University's student-to-faculty ratio ranks highly in the Big 12, but David Shulenburger wants to do better.
Shulenburger, KU's executive vice chancellor and provost, said he planned to use additional tuition money to pay for 100 new tenure-track faculty positions in the next four years.
"We've sort of made do by putting in lecturers," he said. "We really need full-time, tenure-track people who have a dedication to the university."
KU now has one faculty member for every 17.3 students, ranking it fifth in the Big 12, according to data provided by the universities. That figure includes all of KU's campuses and counts lecturers as faculty.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln leads the Big 12 with one faculty member for every 12 students. Texas A&M is last with one faculty member for every 22 students.
But Shulenburger points to another set of figures in justifying the need for more faculty. For the Lawrence campus alone and counting only tenured and tenure-track faculty, KU has one faculty member for every 22.6 students.
That ranks KU 26th of the 34 public universities in the American Association of Universities, a group KU officials frequently uses as peer schools.
Shulenburger directed the deans of KU's 14 schools to provide him a proposal, due Friday, for how they would use a 15 percent increase in faculty members. However, not all departments will receive a 15 percent increase some likely will receive more and others less.
KU students saw a 25 percent increase in tuition this year, and similar increases are planned for the next four years.
Shulenburger said KU will use $8.4 million of the $43 million in tuition increases planned for the next four years for more faculty. The first round of hires will come next year, with 16 or 17 new professors, he said.
The student-to-faculty ratio has been improving gradually at KU in the last 20 years.
During that time, student enrollment on the Lawrence campus increased 8.4 percent, to 26,458 this year. The number of full-time faculty members increased 19 percent, to 1,577 this year.
Increasing the number of faculty members is about more than decreasing the size of classes, KU officials said.
Kim Wilcox, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said having more faculty would help with Chancellor Robert Hemenway's goal of having all undergraduate students participate in research before they graduate. It also will allow students more time to meet with faculty advisers.
"It's always good to have as much direct contact between students and faculty as possible, and the best way to do that is increase your faculty," he said.
Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, senior vice provost, said KU didn't have a target ratio set for students and faculty.
"That's a list where we'd like to be closer to first in the Big 12," she said.
Tom Mulinazzi, an engineering professor and president of KU's University Council, said improving the student-to-faculty ratio also would help KU in rankings, such as those published by U.S. News and World Report. Hemenway wants KU to be in the top 25 of public universities.
"The lower the number, the more brownie points you get toward the rankings," he said.
Mulinazzi said he didn't think large classes are a problem at KU. But he said adding more faculty during a time when some staff members are being laid off is a silver lining to an otherwise dismal budget situation.
"We haven't had resources like this in some time," he said. "It gives us some hope in a time of despair."
But, he noted, the decision on how to spend money on faculty positions could cause tension at KU.
"The people who get (faculty positions) are going to be happy," he said. "The people who don't get them aren't going to be happy."