NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Grading the Ivory Towers

January 12, 2011

A growing number of states are demanding that their taxpayer-funded universities show evidence of improvement in student performance.  Perhaps the most aggressive school is Texas A&M University, which is trying to measure professor productivity and performance, says the Wall Street Journal. 

  • Since 1978, college costs have risen by more than tenfold, about three times the rate of inflation, according to an American Enterprise Institute study.
  • Four years of college now cost as much as $200,000 at some private institutions.
  • In 2009 tuitions rose by 6 percent, four times overall prices.
  • Professors' salaries and benefits make up about 60 percent to 70 percent of university noncapital costs.

So Texas A&M is starting to ask such basic questions as:  Is that psychology or engineering professor worth his $125,000 salary?

  • The school is trying to answer this question by applying a cost-benefit analysis of how much each professor earns in salary per student taught.
  • The school also uses such metrics of value added as research dollars brought in by a professor and student evaluations of how well a teacher performs in a classroom.
  • For high-achieving professors, the new pay-for-performance standards offer bonuses of up to $10,000 a year.

Source: "Grading the Ivory Towers," Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2011.

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