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UI saving money with faculty teaching extra courses

BY MARY KATE KNORR | DECEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials say they're saving money by hiring adjunct instructors and having current faculty teach more courses. However, the number of permanent faculty at the UI is still rising.

The UI paid almost $2 million in extra pay to faculty who took on extra teaching work during the last school year. And the number of temporary instructors on campus has jumped by more than 200 in the last two years.

But despite those moves to avoid hiring permanent full-time teachers, the university has 40 more permanent faculty than it did two years ago.

The number of permanent faculty teaching extra classes rose from 140 in the fall of 2007 to approximately 200 this semester, according to Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice and data obtained by The Daily Iowan. That equates to an increase of roughly $150,000 the UI doles out in what officials call "overload pay."

Even with hiring on the rise, UI officials defend overload pay — paying permanent faculty extra to take on more teaching — saying the school has utilized the method for years.

"They are not bonuses," Rice said. "[Professors] are actually working for the extra money they get. On a fairly regular basis, we'll allow existing faculty to teach one extra class per semester. We've always done that."

And officials continue to look at cost-saving methods, Rice said. Instead of hiring new permanent faculty, officials say, it's cheaper to have current employees teach more.

"We never know what the demand will be year to year," Rice said. "Sometimes we hire lecturers to do it. What we don't want to do is hire a full-time permanent faculty member if we're not sure we need that person on the long term."

Higher-education experts say while temporary fixes like more teaching assistants or overload pay help meet the demand for more teachers while saving money, education quality might be at stake.

In general, hiring temporary faculty or using overload pay saves costs over hiring new permanent faculty, UI College of Education Professor Christopher Morphew said.

"[Permanent faculty] are much more likely to require moving costs," he said. "They require higher salaries than part-time faculty, and they teach fewer courses and often fewer students as well."

Professor Bruce Baker, an educational finance expert at Rutgers University, said using temporary and adjunct faculty often makes more sense to administrators.

"The cost per student credit hour produced is going to be lower when using instructors in place of tenure-track faculty," Baker said. "The cost per student credit hour will be lower the more students you can get into each section of specific courses."

However, when considering all the cost-saving methods, quality comes into question, Baker said.

"If the ultimate goal is helping students to efficiently complete their degrees, these cost-cutting approaches may be shortsighted," Baker said. "The short-term savings achieved by using adjunct instructors to deliver classes might be offset by declining degree production and/or declining efficiency of degree production."

However, Rice said he believes the university's choices reflect the best interest of its students.

"[Overload pay] is a really straight forward effort to keep the quality of education level high," he said.


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