Before I begin discussing the student to faculty ratio, I invite you to examine the table below, a screen shot from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s “Higher Education Accountability System” website (click on the image to enlarge it).
First, please note that this is not a comparison of actual bodies. It is a ratio of “equivalents,” which means that several part-timers could equal one full-timer. There are a number of factors involved. Here’s the THECB’s definition:
Definition: For this measure, undergraduate full-time-student-equivalents (FTSEs) are calculated on 15 semester credit hours where the SCH value is greater than zero. Full-time faculty equivalents (FTFE) are instructional faculty reported on the CBM008 with rank codes 1-5 (or blank) and percent of time directly related to teaching greater than 0. Faculty members without a salary are included. All enrollments (funded and not funded) are included.
As you can see, the Texas State Technical College West Texas has the best ratio from a student perspective right now with only six students to one faculty member. The college nearest to West Texas’s ratio, tiny TSTC Marshall, has more than double the student:faculty ratio–13:1. Other colleges have triple and almost quadruple the ratio.
How did West Texas achieve this fine ratio? It looks like a couple of things happened: students left by the droves and they hired more instructors after losing quite a few. First, let’s get a handle on the number of faculty equivalents and see how it has changed over the years.
As the image above reflects, back in fall 2008, they had 95 FTFEs. That number dropped to 69 by fall 2010. (I suspect the decision to have other colleges teach its academics had something to do with that drop. Open this highlighted link to see an e-mail discussion regarding academics and the “less than desirable results” West Texas got farming out those classes.) From a low of 69 in 2010, however, the very next year the number of full-time faculty equivalents jumped to 97, two more than it had in the fall of 2008.
Now let’s examine the full-time student equivalency and that number’s slide down.
Never mind that fine, healthy number of 1,299 back in the fall of 2004. Let’s compare 2008 and 2011. Fall 2008 sported 1,051 full-time student equivalents. Fall 2011 had a mere 606 FTSEs, yet they BOTH have comparable numbers of full-time faculty equivalents. That says very clearly that the change in the ratio of students to faculty came about via an exodus of students.
Those administrators had better figure a way to stop that exodus. They’re already mothballing buildings out there and last fall only had 810 students to spread among its “main” campus at Sweetwater and its three satellite campuses at Abilene, Brownwood, and Breckenridge.
Just how low can enrollment go before a college is simply not viable?