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Archive for Sunday, August 20, 2006

KU value?

August 20, 2006

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To the editor:

Since schools, colleges and universities are first and foremost for the education of the student, would someone at Kansas University explain the following situation?

I was talking with a sophomore at KU about her first day of classes (Thursday). She had three classes: one had about 400 students and each of the other two had approximately 1,000 students in class. She pays $138 per unit or $414 for each of the 3-unit classes.

KU receives about $414,000 for a class of 1,000 students (or $828,000 for the two large classes), and $165,600 for the class of 400. KU receives approximately $1,000,000 (a million dollars) for the three classes. One professor told the class he has no e-mail address and probably won't be talking with any of the students outside class during the semester. A video course with the most dynamic professors in the country for survey courses, together with local TAs, would be an improvement.

Would someone at KU explain, from an education viewpoint, why faceless students in a class of 1,000 should pay the same credit fees as a student in a class of 30? Since most of these large classes are probably general education or survey courses, but required for graduation, is KU selling the students short?

Ken Bubb,

Lawrence

Comments

gaiapapaya 8 years, 4 months ago

In my experience, most of the large classes have small discussion groups or labs that go along with the class. There is no way that you could offer everyone taking chem 125 a 30 person class. There aren't enough classrooms. That's what lab is for, to talk to your TA about questions and get more individulalized instruction.

Jamesaust 8 years, 4 months ago

"Would someone at KU explain, from an education viewpoint, why faceless students in a class of 1,000 should pay the same credit fees as a student in a class of 30?"

Yes. Because the fees from the 1,000 subsidize the expenses of the 30. Otherwise, the U/student could never afford to offer/pay for the class of 30.

There's a considerable amount of cross-subsidation between classes, programs, schools, etc. You just don't see (or notice) it.

)If someone out there would give the U a few billion dollars, the classes of 1,000 could be classes of 30, and the classes of 30 could be classes of 3. Anyone willing to write the check?)

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago

My guess is your student is either a psychology or a biology major. These are the two most popular majors at KU, with upwards of 2,500 majors each. Other programs, such as English or History, have many fewer majors (~300, ten-fold fewer). However, the Psychology and Biology departments have roughly the same number of faculty as do English and History (about 40 or so in each department). It stands to reason then that upper-level (non-introductory) courses in psychology and biology will be huge compared to english and history. Indeed, this is the case.

So yes, in a way, the programs with many majors (psychology and biology) subsidize the smaller programs with fewer majors (e.g. english, history, and many of the humanities and language programs).

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago

Let's do the math here. The average KU professor's salary is around $80,000. This means that a single KU professor must teach 580 credit hours (193 students in a three-credit course) each year in order for the university to "break even" on just the professor's salary, not to mention benefits, office space, heating, cooling, etc.

JA is correct. Without the huge, mainly science, classes, there is no way KU could offer upper-level humanities or language courses to 5 or 10 students.

Let's say that 30 is an upper limit to class size, and that professors teach two courses per semester (this is generally the case at KU). In order for tuition to pay just for a single professor's salary, it would need to be about $225 per credit hour. Add in benefits, administrator salaries, buildings and upkeep, heating and cooling, and tuition would need to be at least $500-$600 per credit hour to pay for the entire operation of the university.

This is why state subsidy is so important. Tuition alone cannot and does not pay the bills at KU.

crono 8 years, 4 months ago

First: The notion that the prof doesn't have an e-mail is a joke. All KU students and faculty have e-mail. Therefore, either: (a) the prof doesn't know how to use e-mail, (b) the prof doesn't want to answer e-mails from a 1000 students and is having his GTAs field them (likely), or (c) the student misunderstood what the prof was saying (also likely).

Second: Any 1000-person course likely has a veritable army of GTAs available to provide personal assistance to students.

Third: There are plenty of schools where you can have 30-person class sizes and face-to-face instructor contact. They're called "liberal arts colleges", and they typically run about $20,000-$30,000 a year.

prioress 8 years, 4 months ago

If you don't like big classes, go to Baker or Ottawa U.

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