By Brent Gustafson, finance director
Within the College of Liberal Arts, the delivery of the college's curriculum takes many forms. Tenured and tenure-track faculty members are a key resource that provide teaching, along with their expected research and service responsibilities. Beyond the faculty, however, the college employs contract faculty, instructors, and graduate assistants to deliver the curriculum. This column will look at this important aspect of CLA's finances and operations.
The current fiscal year (2013) is the third year that CLA has delegated instructional resource management to the academic departments of the college. Prior to this time, CLA Administration played a larger role in determining teaching assistant staffing levels, course minima, and the numbers of sections of a course. Now, academic departments make these decisions based on their own identified needs and priorities and within the unit's instructional resources. The college still plays a role in consulting with departments about enrollment trends and best practices.
In order to fund these priorities, departments receive from the college a "single allocation" of instructional resources with which to deliver their curriculum. Known as "TA/UI" (teaching assistants/unassigned instruction), the single allocation is a bucket of resources with which departments hire the appropriate staff to either teach or assist in the classroom. The college also sets enrollment targets for units to accompany the allocation of TA/UI to help ensure efficient use of the money.
Instructional staff can also vary in the types of appointments fulfilling this function. Many of these roles are filled by professional and administrative instructors (P&A, approximately 400 this year). Beyond these P&A instructors, the college employs a large number of graduate assistants (approximately 1,000 this year). The role of these graduate assistants varies widely throughout the college, with some TAs serving as graders or assisting TAs, while other graduate assistants teach courses on their own. In any given year, approximately three-fifths of what CLA spends for instruction is for graduate assistants.
Over time, CLA has gradually decreased its spending on instruction provided by non-tenure/tenure-track faculty. The primary reasons for this decline are related to decreasing numbers of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the college. As noted in a prior column (see "What we control, what we don't"), enrollment in CLA has fallen by just over 1,000 students from fall semester 2009 to fall semester 2012. In addition to the decline in the number of students, CLA has also experienced a decrease in the share of credits taken by CLA undergraduate students within the college (see "A closer look at tuition"). In the 2008-09 academic year, CLA students took 73% of their credits within CLA, but that share fell to 66% last year (AY 2011-12).
With this decline in demand, CLA has experienced a lower need for instructional resources. Pulling back on funding this capacity has helped CLA make budget reductions in the face of continued budget pressures related to tuition revenue.
Effective and efficient use of TA/UI resources is one important way that departments help meet multiple goals for the college. Ideally, the curriculum within each department is attractive to students and enrolls well, in order to make good use of faculty instructional time as well as the time of teaching assistants and P&A instructors. Appealing to student interests and enrollment trends in turn helps the college's tuition revenue by drawing students into CLA classes, both from within CLA and also from other colleges.