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Align Workloads and Schedules with Student Demand

Instructional costs, primarily faculty compensation and benefits, are the largest single budget line item for nearly every university—and they are on the rise. For most institutions, these costs are largely fixed, making resource flexibility a significant challenge in an era of declining per-student funding and tuition revenue. Focusing on smarter and more efficient allocation of your current instructors is often the best way to achieve immediate benefits—for both students (often competing for seats in high-demand sections) and the bottom line (helping generate more student credit hours without adding part-time instructional staff).

Stakeholder Education

Unpack the drivers of instructional costs

To better align resources with student enrollment patterns, you’ll need support from deans, department chairs, and other academic leaders. The first step is to address common misconceptions about institutional finances and equip your team with a better understanding of the drivers of instructional costs–including the size and frequency of course and section offerings, whether classroom spaces are assigned to appropriately-sized sections, curricular complexity, and faculty workloads.

Decision Support

Pick the right metrics to monitor instructional efficiency

Many of the measures used to gauge cost-efficiency at the institutional level are ineffective for monitoring unit-level costs and performance. Total personnel costs, the student-faculty ratio, and average class size, for example, fail to reflect common inefficiencies at the departmental or course level.

Instead, departments should focus on three key analyses that direct specific actions and align with broader institutional goals: the instructional capacity gap, student credit hours per faculty FTE, and unfunded course releases. These analyses should guide departmental planning, budgeting, scheduling, and ongoing workload conversations at both the unit and college level.

Decision Support

Identify the greatest opportunities for resource and workload reallocation

Every institution has unique challenges relating to student demand and instructor capacity, but there are telltale signs of resource issues that can help you target areas for focus. How carefully are you measuring section fill rates, course enrollment, course completion rates, curricular complexity, and faculty course loads? And how effective are your deans and chairs at responding to changes in demand?

Action Support

Equip academic leaders to make smarter workload decisions

Most decisions that impact capacity are made at the department level, from annual choices about course capacity and faculty workload to longer-term planning decisions about curricular requirements and student major pathways. Academic affairs leaders need to work with department chairs to collect accurate student demand data, analyze faculty workload data beyond the standard teaching load, and set program-level strategy for increasing capacity in low-enrollment areas.

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