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?
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
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
% 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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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??
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
KeilexandraPosts: 5,492Registered UserSenior 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.
Replies to: Avg Class size?
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
Graduate level classes are not open to a majority of the university population, I'm betting.