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Avg Class size?

rdh1991rdh1991 Posts: 602Registered User Member
I don't know if this exists anywhere, but does anyone know where I could find the avg class size of many schools. Is there a forum of it somewhere? Or maybe a website?
Post edited by rdh1991 on
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Replies to: Avg Class size?

  • hawkettehawkette Posts: 4,863Registered User Senior Member
    Rdh,
    I suggest you focus less on the average class size and more on the % of classes that are offered at various sizes, eg, less than 20 students, 20-50 students, and 50+ students. There is a lot of data available on this from USNWR and I post below some data for the USNWR Top 50 National Unis and the USNWR Top 25 LACs.

    In particular, focus on the colleges that offer a high percentage of small classes as this is a prerequisite for the highest quality classroom experience. This can also be an institutional statement that undergraduate education is a priority and that there is the financial wherewithal to deliver classroom environments where students can easily interact with each other and with their professors.

    As for larger classes, once you get over 50-75 students in a class/lecture, the difference between 75 students and 200 or 300 or 500 students is almost immaterial. I think it is obvious that you should try to avoid situations where there is a large percentage of classes over 50. The consequences of the large class size are that:
    1) you will be far less likely to have the opportunity to develop any type of meaningful relationship with or interaction with the professor
    2) the quality of your peers and their potential contributions are minimized. Schools with the top student bodies will usually minimize large class sizes so that students can benefit from interaction with their peers and their professor
    3) there is potentially a lot of teaching that will be done by graduate students whose command of the English language is often lacking.

    % of classes with <20 students , National University

    OUTSTANDING

    76% , Columbia
    75% , Harvard
    75% , Yale
    75% , Northwestern
    74% , Stanford
    74% , U Penn
    74% , Tufts
    73% , Princeton
    72% , U Chicago
    72% , Wash U
    70% , Duke
    70% , Brown

    VERY, VERY GOOD

    69% , Caltech
    69% , Yeshiva
    68% , Rice
    68% , Emory
    67% , Vanderbilt
    66% , Brandeis
    65% , Johns Hopkins
    65% , Carnegie Mellon
    64% , MIT
    64% , Dartmouth
    64% , USC
    62% , UC Berkeley
    62% , U Rochester
    62% , Case Western
    62% , Tulane
    60% , Cornell

    GOOD

    58% , Georgetown
    58% , NYU
    57% , Wake Forest
    56% , Notre Dame
    53% , UCLA
    53% , Rensselaer
    50% , UC Santa Barbara

    YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

    49% , U Virginia
    49% , W&M
    49% , UC Irvine
    48% , Boston Coll
    47% , Lehigh
    44% , U Michigan
    44% , U North Carolina
    44% , UCSD
    44% , U Wisconsin
    41% , U Florida
    40% , Georgia Tech
    38% , U Illinois
    35% , U Washington
    35% , UC Davis
    35% , U Texas
    33% , Penn State



    % of classes with <20 students , LAC

    OUTSTANDING

    96% , US Military Acad
    86% , Claremont McK
    76% , Haverford
    75% , Amherst
    74% , Swarthmore
    74% , Hamilton
    73% , Williams
    72% , Pomona
    71% , Middlebury
    71% , Davidson
    71% , Bryn Mawr
    70% , Oberlin

    VERY, VERY GOOD

    69% , Bowdoin
    68% , Vassar
    68% , W&L
    68% , Smith
    68% , Macalester
    67% , Wellesley
    64% , Harvey Mudd
    64% , Bates
    63% , Carleton
    63% , Wesleyan
    63% , Colgate
    61% , US Naval Acad
    61% , Colby
    60% , Grinnell


    % of classes with >50 students , National University

    OUTSTANDING

    1% , Yeshiva
    2% , Wake Forest
    4% , U Chicago
    4% , Tufts
    5% , Duke

    VERY, VERY GOOD

    6% , Emory
    6% , Vanderbilt
    6% , Brandeis
    7% , U Penn
    7% , Northwestern
    7% , Rice
    7% , Georgetown
    7% , W&M
    7% , Boston Coll
    8% , Yale
    8% , Caltech
    8% , Columbia
    8% , Tulane
    9% , Harvard
    9% , Dartmouth
    9% , Wash U
    9% , Brown
    9% , Carnegie Mellon
    10% , Princeton
    10% , Notre Dame
    10% , Lehigh
    10% , Case Western
    10% , Rensselaer

    GOOD

    11% , Stanford
    11% , Johns Hopkins
    12% , MIT
    12% , USC
    12% , U North Carolina
    12% , NYU
    12% , U Rochester
    14% , UC Berkeley
    14% , U Virginia

    I HOPE YOU LIKE BIG CLASSES

    16% , UC Irvine
    17% , Cornell
    17% , U Washington
    17% , UC Santa Barbara
    17% , Penn State
    18% , U Michigan
    18% , U Wisconsin
    19% , U Illinois
    20% , UCLA
    20% , U Florida
    22% , Georgia Tech
    23% , U Texas
    28% , UC Davis
    30% , UCSD



    % of classes with >50 students , LAC

    OUTSTANDING

    0% , Davidson
    0% , Claremont McK
    0% , Vassar
    0% , Grinnell
    0% , US Military Acad
    0% , W&L
    0% , Hamilton
    0% , US Naval Acad
    1% , Wellesley
    1% , Pomona
    1% , Carleton
    1% , Haverford
    2% , Swarthmore
    2% , Bowdoin
    2% , Colgate
    2% , Oberlin
    2% , Bryn Mawr
    2% , Macalester
    3% , Amherst
    4% , Williams
    4% , Middlebury
    4% , Harvey Mudd
    4% , Smith
    4% , Colby
    5% , Bates
    6% , Wesleyan
  • pierre0913pierre0913 Posts: 7,562Registered User Senior Member
    Boston College 48%.......$50,000+ for the school, I don't think I'd call that "You get what you pay for" haha
  • Undclrd StdntUndclrd Stdnt Posts: 272Registered User Junior Member
    Did you get those data from collegedata.com?
  • birdhousebirdhouse Posts: 633Registered User Member
    Do those numbers exclude one-person classes...guided readings or "classes" of that nature?
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,426Registered User Senior Member
    The information on hawkette's lists usually is available in each school's Common Data Set, which usually is posted online. Google for the college name and "Common Data Set". The information should be there in a Class Size (or some such) section near the end.

    My S chose a school that is not on hawkette's lists. It's something like the #30-ranked USNWR LAC. But, 61% of its classes have fewer than 20 students, and 0% have over 50. There should be a number of other schools that meet these criteria.
  • belevittbelevitt Posts: 2,005Registered User Senior Member
    I would just like to suggest that these might not be as cut and dry as they seem. These data average courses as diverse as freshman english and analytical chemistry labs and advanced coursework. Those courses are going to have very different class sizes at most universities. Lab courses tend to be quite small as are seminars and other advanced coursework. While a larger university will have more freshmen lecture courses with seating for 500 to accommodate a larger population, those same individuals will take much smaller courses later in their college career.
  • mikemacmikemac Posts: 7,176Registered User Senior Member
    Average class size is a number that is very easy to manipulate. In a larger U, every large lecture class has so-called "discussion" sections that meet once a week with a TA. There may be no discussion in them, they may be for returning homework, quizzes, etc. But I digress. The important point is that in your lecture class of 300 students there are going to be 12 discussion sections of lets say 25. You sign up for them separately. Count these as separate classes, and the average class size just shrunk to 47!!

    That's why the numbers given above by hawkette are misleading. I don't believe for a second that 1/2 or more of all the undergrad classes at any UC school have 20 or less; those are the discussion sections.
  • ericatbucknellericatbucknell Posts: 748Registered User Member
    That's why the numbers given above by hawkette are misleading. I don't believe for a second that 1/2 or more of all the undergrad classes at any UC school have 20 or less; those are the discussion sections.

    the common data set has a separate section for discussion sections. they are not being counted unless a school is misreporting numbers, deliberately or otherwise. i suspect this is rarely the case.

    the real issue is that people confuse the percentage of classes of a certain size with the percentage of classroom experiences of a certain size. simply, there are more students in large classes.

    assume that the average class with more than 50 students has 100, that the average class between 20 and 50 has 35 and that the average class with fewer than 20 students has 15.

    under these assumptions, a full 44% of classes taken by students at uc berkeley have more than 50 students and only 29% have fewer than 20. compare these numbers to those at grinnell, which actually reports a smaller percentage of small classes than berkeley. there, 0% of classes taken have more than 50 students and 39% fewer than 20.

    (for those not following along, imagine a semester schedule at a school with one class taken by the entire 1000 person student body and 300 classes with 10 students each. with each student taking the required large class in addition to three small classes each semester, a full 25% of each students classes would be enormous despite that large class comprising less than 0.5% of the schools offerings as reported by usnews.)
  • barronsbarrons Posts: 23,591Registered User Senior Member
    How many courses do those schools offer? It might be just as good to have 4000 classes of which 50% are under 20 as having only 1000 classes with 65% under 20. Assume tiny college A has only 100 courses and 90% have under 20 students. Big U has 4500 classes but "only" 45% are under 20. Which is better??
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,426Registered User Senior Member
    assume that the average class with more than 50 students has 100, that the average class between 20 and 50 has 35 and that the average class with fewer than 20 students has 15.

    O.K., but suppose that the average class with more than 50 students has 51, that the average class between 20 and 50 has 49, and that the average class with fewer than 20 students has 19. In that case, 23% of the classroom experiences are in "large" classes, and the large classes tend to be only modestly large.

    But now, suppose (for the sake of argument) that the average class with more than 50 students has 2000, that the average class between 20 and 50 has 21, and that the average class with fewer than 20 students has 1. In that case, 98% of the classroom experiences are in "large" classes, and the large classes tend to be astonishingly large.

    This second set of assumptions is unrealistic. But as a matter of fact, according to their 2007-08 CDS numbers for all UC Berkeley classes with 50 or more students, almost half have an enrollment of 100 students or more. So I do think Eric's "44%" is based on a reasonable set of assumptions.

    It's true, Berkeley does offer over 3600 courses. The majority have enrollments of fewer than 50 students. It's also true that a significant percentage of total undergraduate class time is spent in classes too big for the professor to get to know the majority of students.
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,426Registered User Senior Member
    Assume tiny college A has only 100 courses and 90% have under 20 students. Big U has 4500 classes but "only" 45% are under 20. Which is better??

    A top-25 LAC with 2000 students is more likely to offer about 400 courses to Berkeley's nearly 4000.

    But to answer the question, the LAC is better. The majority of courses are less specialized, increasing the likelihood that the material is of general interest and importance to the average educated person. Virtually all the class time (not just half or 2/3 of it) is spent interacting with an expert in a group that is small enough to explore most student's ideas.

    Better still, for some, is the rare case of major research university with a world class faculty that still manages to have only a tiny percentage of courses enroll more than 50 students.
  • barronsbarrons Posts: 23,591Registered User Senior Member
    Yes maybe if you are a general interest person. Today more and more people want to specialize and major in something with job potential. Especially with all the AP and other advanced classes kids today arrive at college having taken. Your senior year could be mostly grad level or highly specialized classes. Classes smaller colleges will not offer. For example how many languages does the typical LAC offer? Grinnell a highly regarded smallish LAC has six. Wisconsin has up to 80.
  • kb10kb10 Posts: 396Registered User Member
    the elite public hater at it again, this time coining a new ranking phrase "you get what you pay for", how much more bitter can a post look. just my 2 cents, there's ways to manipulate this data, public schools have to disclose this information publically and accurately, and don't play this usnews game. not mention that many people take graduate level classes, i did for my last 2 undergraduate years, so take these figures with a grain of salt.
  • mikemacmikemac Posts: 7,176Registered User Senior Member
    the common data set has a separate section for discussion sections. they are not being counted unless a school is misreporting numbers, deliberately or otherwise. i suspect this is rarely the case.

    the real issue is that people confuse the percentage of classes of a certain size with the percentage of classroom experiences of a certain size. simply, there are more students in large classes.
    Eric, your explanation makes sense. And when I looked at the CDS for Cal, they don't report anything for the discussion sections.

    However there is one additional trick I suspect large schools are playing to help generate the surprising number of small classes that hasn't been mentioned yet. When you do an undergrad thesis or honors project, you enroll in a class to get credit for your time. Cal, for example, reports over 1200 classes with 2-9 students!! I wonder if these 198 & 199 (the course designation usually used) account for some of this?
  • KeilexandraKeilexandra Posts: 5,492Registered User Senior Member
    kb10 - What makes you think public universities as a whole disclose information more fairly than private universities? The elite publics, especially, have just as much benefit to derive from higher rankings.

    Graduate level classes are not open to a majority of the university population, I'm betting.
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