Dr. Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy has posted an intriguing column about the potential for cost savings in the UNC System by taking a close look at the “sacred cow” of faculty teaching loads.

When legislators and officials of the University of North Carolina and legislators consider costs, they prefer to focus on minor operational functions—such as heating bills. But that is mere nibbling around the edges.

One area is more promising for cutting costs than all the rest: faculty teaching loads. Faculty salaries are roughly half of the UNC budget; even slight adjustments could mean savings well into the tens of millions of dollars. Yet they have remained something of a sacred cow—there is never any discussion of changing the amount of teaching professors do, even though it is quite feasible.

That’s where the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy comes in—we look at potential cost-cutting measures that nobody else dares to. This year, the Pope Center’s director of policy analysis Jay Schalin took a close look at faculty workloads and found some very interesting things. 

And what happened when the Pope Center’s Jay Schalin started looking at the data?

Schalin found several eye-popping discrepancies between legislated standards and the system’s claims: UNC Greensboro claimed its average professor taught 4.2 courses in the Fall of 2012, despite a legislated standard of 2.5. Our own findings for tenured and tenure-track professors duplicated the 1.7 course difference at Greensboro.

Time for some closer observation of the campuses by system officials.