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Student Faculty Ratio: is there a standard way of reporting?

idic5idic5 Posts: 693Registered User Member
Is there a standard way of measuring and reporting student : faculty ratio?


I think most people would admit that this is a very important stat of a school when one is assessing a school, but:

I got to thinking that there may be problems in the reliability of this stat when...

I recently saw a discrepancy of what USNR said is the S:F ratio of one school and what that school reported on its website.
and
I recall seeing an article on the dubious nature of this stat one of the college review websites (possibly student review.com?)
Post edited by idic5 on

Replies to: Student Faculty Ratio: is there a standard way of reporting?

  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    I think this is one of the IPEDS statistics--it is definitely a Common Data Set Initiative statistic--so there is a standardized way to count. College institutional research officers have an email list for discussions about how to fill out Common Data Set forms, and this question comes up frequently on the list.
  • ablabl Posts: 78Registered User Junior Member
    There's a standard way to count, but the stat can still be misleading...a prof who teaches one course counts as much as a prof who teaches 4. This tends to skew the Student:Faculty ratios at research schools smaller, as many scholars who primarily research will teach only one undergraduate course.
  • idic5idic5 Posts: 693Registered User Member
    abl, that is an interesting point about 1 teacher, multiple classes. I still am trying to figure out what that might mean, though. For my purposes, I am only interested in small, non-research based, undergrad only LACs. Can the s-f ratio stat be understood the same for all of these kind of colleges?

    And, a few questions:

    1. I wonder why there would be a discrepancy between usnr and the college website for that one college that I mentioned above? I assume that usnr is taking from the cds (common data set), correct? But is the college also pulling from the cds?

    2. Am I correct in assuming that the cds is something that all colleges fill in and that all colleges need to fill in the data elements contained in the cds in the same manner? For example, the S-F ratio, s/ be counted in the same manner?

    3. For my info, does anyone know what the formula is for S-F ratio?


    I believe that s-f is a pretty important stat. I wd think that it is indicative of the typical classroom experience. Does USNR use this in its formula for ranking? I know the WA monthly uses it in its ranking. Also Kiplinger uses it (it is a part of the 'bang' in the bang for the buck formula it reports).




    also, fyi, Here is one link I found on s-f.

    [url]http://www.**************.com/docs/trybefore.shtml[/url] +


    +

    Not all Numbers are what they seem...
    **************.com

    Several unnamed publications seem to be in the business of providing high school students and their parents with information on colleges that is not only completely irrelevant and useless, but also misleading.

    An example?
    Student:Professor ratio.

    The selfsame publications will drone on and on about how the average ratio 30:1 at school A is much better than the average 6000:1 at school B, because the professor will provide more individualized attention. PLEASE! The two are completely unrelated!
    Why?

    The statement relies on several assumptions:
    a. the professors are willing to provide individualized attention
    b. the professors speak english
    c. the professors actually teach
    d. the professors care about the students.
    e. the professors care about how they teach.

    Rightfully you, the paying high school students and parents should be able to believe those assumptions. Unfortunately, belief and reality can be two entirely different things.

    At many 'fine' institutions, particularly Carnegie classified 'RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES', emphasis (by the institution) is placed upon research - more appropriately, faculty & professor sponsored research. Nowhere in the equation do undergraduate students fit in. Despite paying tremendous amounts of money for college, undergraduates very rarely contribute to the 'research' that a university provides. This attitude is instilled in professorial faculty, who would rather be working on their award winning research, than teaching a class. Teaching a class consumes volumes of time - planning, grading, helping students, etc; thus ends up frowned upon by research faculty. If recalled correctly, the primary phrase for Professors in Research Universities is "Publish or Perish" - no one concentrating on publishing has time to teach.
    The role of actually teaching falls to a TA (Teaching Assistant) or GSI (Graduate Student Instructor), who may or may not be able to speak english clearly, in addition to teach. In many cases, the TA's actually teach significantly better than the professors, as they have their lives ahead of them & don't see themselves 'perishing' from lack of a publication any time soon.

    The other 'classes' of Universities place more emphasis on teaching from their professors, leading to more satisfied and competent undergraduate students.

    If you do decide to attend a Research University, understand that you are not necessarily paying for a good education, or even an education at all. You are paying to bask in the glow of the brilliant research that takes place. On the up-side, if you do wish to do some research and get your hands wet, then those are the places to be.

    Digressing, the point is to not base any decision off of class size, or the belief that teaching and education is in any way correlated to the class size. For every 'written' point of information that you read about a college, try to determine what you are meant to think from it - then try to identify if that is necessarily true. After you identify the assumptions you are making when you read college reports, you will then be able to identify the questions that you need to ask students who actually attend that University.
    Understand that universities do pay serious amounts of money to shape data and results to put themselves in the best light - to inevitably make people think what they want them to.

    Above all, try before you buy. Sit in on classes - randomly. Sit in on introductory courses - these are often the worst. Sit in on upper level courses. Weigh for yourself whether the students appear to be challenged, if the professors (or T.A.s) appear to teach, and if the environment is stimulating. But don't ever believe that poor performance on the students part is the fault of the students. Most (if not all) college students are competent when they wish to be - if they are not, then they do not wish to be; there is undoubtably a reason for that.

    This Article was submitted by:
    Beracah Yankama
    Graduate, Electrical Engineering
  • hoedownhoedown Posts: 3,751Registered User Senior Member
    Yes there is a standard way of doing it. I'm not the one who does it here, but I know that, among other things, you exclude all faculty who hold appointments in schools that are ONLY graduate (i.e. medicine, law).
  • idic5idic5 Posts: 693Registered User Member
    I found this from kent state...I wonder if this is the standard method of developing s-f ratio?

    Student Faculty Ratios


    Student/Faculty Ratios

    Faculty F.T.E.: This represent a count of all full-time nine-month faculty at 1.0 F.T.E. plus proportionate counts of part-time or split appointment faculty on an appropriate basis. It DOES NOT count administrators holding departmental rank if they are NOT PAID by the department.

    Teaching Graduate Assistant F.T.E.: This represents a calculation of all graduate students who have appropriate appointments and who participate in instruction. Most are counted at .33 F.T.E.

    Student Enrollment F.T.E.: This is the official F.T.E. count. Student Credit Hours (SCH) follows faculty; that is the F.T.E. enrollment taught by faculty is recorded in the department which pays the individual faculty member.

    Student/Faculty Ratio: This figure is calculated by dividing Student Enrollment F.T.E. by Faculty F.T.E.
  • hoedownhoedown Posts: 3,751Registered User Senior Member
    That's how Kent State does it for departments. That is not the standardized way to do it for a single, overall calculation.
  • ablabl Posts: 78Registered User Junior Member
    If you're comparing an LAC to an LAC, chances are, the number is fairly representative; teaching loads are fairly standard across schools, and LACs typically have few-to-no profs teaching substandard loads. I think you'll find that most LACs have very similar S/F ratios, and what small difference exists, mostly comes with $$ (Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore--among the richest LACs, also have among the lowest S/F ratios). Faculty are incredibly expensive and, to a certain extent, tutorials (2:1 classes, found at Williams) and similar small classes are luxury goods.
  • ericatbucknellericatbucknell Posts: 748Registered User Member
    the common data set (which is used by usnews) asks for schools to determine their student count by adding 1/3 of part time students to the number of full-time students while excluding ONLY graduate students in stand-alone programs (like medical schools). faculty totals are calculated in the same way, with some specifics on counting administrators who teach courses, those on paid or unpaid leave, et cetera.

    in other words, the number of students is supposed to be the number of students in BOTH the schools undergraduate and graduate programs. however, MANY research universities DO NOT include their graduate student totals in their calculations, and consequently report drastically lower s/f ratios than should.

    whether a school counts its graduate students is easily verifiable for schools that public their common data sets. simply compare the enrollment figures in section b to the student number provided in the ratio calculation. i quickly did this four five top national universities (the first five i came across), with the following results:

    stanford: does NOT include graduate students in calculations
    dartmouth: does NOT include graduate students in calculations
    brown: DOES include graduate students in calculations
    illinois: does NOT include graduate students in calculations
    texas: DOES include graduate students in calculations

    ...hows that for some us news manipulation?
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
  • ericatbucknellericatbucknell Posts: 748Registered User Member
    If you're comparing an LAC to an LAC, chances are, the number is fairly representative; teaching loads are fairly standard across schools, and LACs typically have few-to-no profs teaching substandard loads. I think you'll find that most LACs have very similar S/F ratios, and what small difference exists, mostly comes with $$ (Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore--among the richest LACs, also have among the lowest S/F ratios). Faculty are incredibly expensive and, to a certain extent, tutorials (2:1 classes, found at Williams) and similar small classes are luxury goods.

    i dont know that i would go that far. the tip-top lacs are now at or moving toward 2-2 teaching loads, with the next group at or moving toward 3-2 loads and the next group at 3-3. simple math suggests that the higher-ranked schools with 2-2 loads need to have student-faculty ratios one third SMALLER than those of lower-ranked schools with 3-3 loads to have the same average class sizes.

    of course, there are still more faculty at the top lac, meaning there are more opportunities for research and one-to-one contact outside the classroom. and the professors will also (at least theoretically) have more time to devote to preparing for, advising and grading the the classes they teach. but the classes themselves arent necessarily much smaller.
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