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OLR Research Report


November 14, 2011

 

2011-R-0382

FACULTY COURSE RELEASE POLICIES

By: Terrance Adams, Legislative Analyst II

You asked for information about faculty course release policies in Connecticut's public colleges and universities, including any associated fiscal impact.

SUMMARY

Course releases are reductions to a faculty member's standard teaching load in exchange for service outside the classroom, such as advising students or chairing a department, among others. They do not include buyouts, which are teaching load reductions given in exchange for a sum of money paid to the university, typically from a research grant.

Connecticut's public colleges and universities have varying course release policies. At UConn, reductions to standard teaching loads appear to be handled at the college or department level and must conform to broad university guidelines. The Connecticut State University System's (CSUS), collective bargaining agreement with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) identifies several duties for which faculty may earn teaching load reductions. In the community-technical colleges (CTC), releases are mostly limited to department chairs and program coordinators.

The institutions also have varying estimates of the fiscal impact. UConn stated that course releases had at most a minimal fiscal impact, while CSUS reported an impact of about $4.5 million. CTC could not determine the exact fiscal impact because not all of its course release time results in a replacement cost.

COURSE RELEASE POLICIES

UConn

UConn has broad guidelines for faculty workloads. The university's bylaws provide only that faculty be assigned “duties that are reasonable and consistent with good and effective practices in teaching, research, clinical care, and outreach…. [Course assignments] will be made by the appropriate deans and department heads consistent with university policy.”

The school's 2007 accreditation self-study noted that faculty workload is established on an individual basis, considering factors such as “generally nationally recognized disciplinary teaching loads, the type and percentage of faculty appointment, and faculty productivity and activities in teaching, research, and service/outreach.” Additionally, the bylaws state that “consideration will be given to unusually heavy responsibilities for student advising, chairing committees, research projects, unusually large courses, and assigned administrative duties.”

CSUS

CSUS requires full-time faculty to teach 12 load credits per semester (one course is generally worth three load credits). Article 10 of the system's agreement with AAUP lists duties for which faculty may earn load credits. They include, among other things:

1. student teacher supervision;

2. teaching a class with more than 40 students;

3. specialized assignments (e.g., a social work practicum, field experience, etc.);

4. independent study direction;

5. master's thesis direction;

6. administrative responsibilities (e.g., serving as the department chairperson);

7. other non-instructional work;

8. research;

9. curriculum development, faculty development, and instructional enhancement; and

10. initial development of a distance learning course.

CTC

The CTC system requires full-time faculty to teach 24 credit hours each year (one course is generally worth three credit hours). They must also perform additional responsibilities equivalent to the preparation and teaching of an additional three-credit course or an average of nine hours per week for each semester within the appointment year. The system's collective bargaining agreements list numerous examples of these additional responsibilities.

Releases in the community-technical colleges are generally limited to faculty members who serve as either department chairs or program coordinators. Release time may also be awarded on an ad hoc basis for certain special assignments, such as writing an accreditation report, but colleges are asked to be judicious in awarding such time. Generally, release time for program coordinators and ad hoc projects averages approximately one course per semester while department chairs earn two course releases per semester.

IMPACT

UConn

UConn reported that its faculty course releases have little if any financial impact, as the university covers replacement costs in very few situations. An example is the AAUP chapter president, who has a contractual one-course reduction. UConn also funds course releases for faculty members who take on heavy university responsibilities, such as chairing the general education curriculum committee, for example. The cost of hiring a replacement adjunct is about $5,000 per course.

Otherwise, departments must cover replacement costs from within their existing budgets. UConn also noted that faculty who are granted course releases are often performing duties essential to the university's operations (e.g., serving as a department chair), and as such allowing faculty course release time to perform these functions does not constitute an added cost.

CSUS

CSUS estimated a replacement cost of $4,522,068 for faculty release time in the 2010-2011 academic year (see Table 1). Overall, the system awarded 3,284 load credits, and its part-time faculty rate is $1,377 per load credit ($4,131 for a three-credit course). The different costs among the universities are likely due to their different sizes, as Central and Southern have substantially larger enrollments than Eastern and Western.

Table 1: CSUS Load Credits and Estimated Costs, 2010-2011

University

Load Credits

Estimated Cost

Central

1063

$1,463,751

Eastern

445

$612,765

Southern

1210

$1,666,170

Western

566

$779,382

Total

3284

$ 4,522,068

Source: CSUS

CTC

Overall, CTC awarded 2,496.34 load credits in the 2010-2011 academic year (see Table 2). As with CSUS, the differences among the colleges are likely due to their varying sizes.

CTC could not precisely determine the replacement costs of faculty release time. The system pays adjuncts $1,437 per credit hour ($4,311 for a three-credit course) but stated that not all release hours are assumed by adjuncts. In some cases, a course may be reassigned to a regular faculty member as part of his or her regular teaching load, or it may be cancelled. It is therefore unclear how many of the load credits resulted in an added cost.

Table 2: CTC Load Credits, 2010-2011

College

Department Chair

Program Coordinator

Other

Total

Asnuntuck

18

21

60

99

Capital

60

78

103

241

Gateway

72

213

73

358

Housatonic

60

15

21

96

Manchester

117

119

143

379

Middlesex

48

87

13

148

Naugatuck Valley

113

73.5

54

240.5

Northwestern

0

24

31.5

55.5

Norwalk

111

120

62

293

Quinebaug Valley

0

48

54.5

102.5

Three Rivers

79.5

84

117.34

280.84

Tunxis

78

42

83

203

Total

756.5

924.5

815.34

2496.34

Source: CTC

TA:ts