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Archive for Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Audit: Faculty earn more, teach less

Higher education officials find fault with new state audit

December 14, 2004

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— More faculty, making more money and spending less time teaching.

That's the conclusion of a state audit released Monday on faculty teaching loads at the state's public universities.



Since 1985, the audit found, the number of faculty members at Kansas public universities has increased 27 percent. Their salaries, on average, have outpaced the inflation rate. And they spend less time teaching students in the classroom.

In another area, the audit found universities were not following requirements to make sure instructors speak English clearly.

Members of a legislative committee that reviewed the audit said they were troubled by its findings.

"Kansas is frankly taxed enough," said Rep. Frank Miller, R-Independence. "We need to find a way to be more cost-efficient."

But higher education officials said the audit's data could be misleading.

Reggie Robinson, president of the Kansas Board of Regents, said using the inflation rate to measure faculty salary growth was "flawed."

If faculty salaries had been held to the inflation rate, he said, "I have little doubt that our institutions would not only have failed in their efforts to recruit top faculty, but would have suffered significant defections from their faculty ranks as well."

Faculty stats

Of the state's seven public universities, Kansas University was one of only two that had seen full-time faculty members teaching more students on average since 1985. The other was Pittsburg State University.

At KU, the audit said the average full-time teacher in the business department is teaching 94 students, up from 90 in 1985; political science, 98 students, up from 70; math, 70 students, up from 41; education, 59 students, up from 54; and English, 39 students, down from 57.

Statewide, the biggest percentage changes were at Kansas State University, where the number of students taught by full-time teachers in the business department dropped from 124 to 59, and at Pittsburg State, where the number of students taught per teacher in the political science department increased from 62 to 129.

On the workload issue, the audit found the number of full-time faculty members increased to 934 from 735 in 1985, the last time a workload study was done.

Statewide,the average salary for English, math, education and political science faculty increased 8 percent, or 16 percent more than the rate of inflation, while faculty in business departments saw average salary increases of 41 percent more than inflation, the audit said.

KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said even with the salary increases, KU faculty pay consistently ranked last or next-to-last compared with faculty salaries at peer institutions. KU faculty salaries are 86 percent of those at peer schools, down from 92 percent in 1985, she said.

In 1985, the average salary for a full-time teacher in KU's business department was $37,309 as compared with $110,599 last year, the audit said. For a political science professor, the average salary jumped from $24,825 to $60,107 for the same comparable years.

Classes

The auditors found that while the number of faculty members increased, the average number of courses taught didn't change significantly; most full-time faculty members are teaching from two to five classes. And the average number of hours teachers spent in the classroom decreased in most instances.

Robinson asked lawmakers to resist comparing the universities because the schools have different missions. He said professors could be spending less time teaching because they are devoting more time to obtaining research grants.

Paul Carttar, KU's executive vice chancellor of external affairs, agreed. KU's numbers reflect an effort to improve education and increase research, he said.

"We're not surprised" by the audit, Carttar said, and added he thought it provided an "incomplete picture."

Asked if he thought the audit would be used as ammunition against increased state funding for higher education, Carttar said, "It's our job to make sure the Legislature has a complete picture of our work."

English proficiency

The audit also found that graduate teaching assistant salaries have fallen behind inflation and that schools weren't following policies to ensure that prospective instructors are proficient English speakers.

Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, expressed disappointment about the language issue.

The regents, which oversees higher education, have policies designed to ensure instructors are proficient in English, but those policies have not been followed, auditors concluded.

"The impression given to us is that this is a problem solved," Kerr said. "Now we find out that is not the case."

Robinson, the regents' president, said the board would work on the issue immediately.

Of a sample reviewed by auditors of faculty and graduate teaching assistants hired to teach, KU followed all requirements in some cases, but failed in others.

But Carttar said surveys of students showed the incidence of instructors who have trouble speaking English has dramatically decreased.

"Those surveys indicate this is not a problem," he said.

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