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Higher faculty pay a must for high student success rates, says chair of excellence study

April 9, 2001

If Southern states are to close the higher education gap of their residents, legislators must improve faculty salaries at public four-year universities, particularly in Tennessee, according to a study by Dr. Vicky Langston, associate professor and occupant of the Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise.

Langston's results concurred with studies of the national market, which found a direct correlation between student success (that is, retention and graduation), full-time faculty (as opposed to adjuncts) and faculty compensation. More highly paid faculty are associated with higher quality students, and vice versa.

Though private institutions do subsidize tuition for some students, they tend to use contributions to "purchase" high-quality students and distinct resources, including accomplished faculty. Public universities, on the other hand, use funds to reduce tuition cost for all students.

Though that practice does expand access, it may be costly in the long term, Langston says, especially as public institutions are forced to increase their reliance on private donations. "Donations are a reflection of student success rates, which in turn are a reflection of the number of full-time faculty and how well those faculty are paid," she says.

Southern states--which lag behind in recruiting traditional-age students and have a backlog of adults with no baccalaureate education--will have to pursue innovative strategies in higher education to catch up with their northern counterparts, Langston says. "These strategies should recognize the value of the student/faculty interface in the education process."

They also should include a movement toward performance-based funding (rather than the head-count-based funding formula currently in use), increased use of full-time faculty and restructured financial assistance in which students assume more of the cost of education but receive loans or grants based on performance, Langston says.

For more information about the study, e-mail her at