Research by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity suggests that Texas could make college tuition more affordable by increasing faculty emphasis on teaching.
The report is sure to provide ammunition to some lawmakers and policy experts, who want professors to teach more and cut down on research. It has already come under fire from UT faculty representatives who say it does not provide an accurate picture of academic duties.
In the report, Dr. Richard Vedder argues that if the bottom 80 percent of professors taught as many students as the top 20 percent, tuition could be cut in half at the University of Texas at Austin. That top 20 percent, Vedder finds, are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours.
Vedder finds that the "least productive" 20 percent of professors only teach two percent of students.
Critics of the report point out that the study makes no distinction between teaching large introductory level courses, sometimes filled with hundreds of students, and smaller advanced level seminar classes, which dedicate more time and personal attention to individual students. According to a story in the Austin American Statesman:
Faculty also questioned the value of using the dollar total of grants as a measure of research productivity. Such a calculation would overwhelmingly favor science professors who run labs that need specialized and expensive equipment over humanities instructors, who often require much less grant funding to, say, travel to a library.
The reports comes on the heels of a controversy at UT's Board of Regents over the role of state-funded higher education.
The board recently hired, and then promptly fired, Rick O’Donnell. O'Donnell is a critic of research-focused public education and a colleague of Dr. Vedder at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
On Friday, a group of four UT regents re-affirmed their commitment to academic research in Texas' public universities.