Dear Commons Community,
The University of Georgia is taking seriously its efforts to improve undergraduate instruction by hiring dozens of new full-time faculty. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):
“The University of Georgia, seeking to improve the classroom experience of its undergraduates, has begun a faculty hiring spree to reduce enrollments in hundreds of courses.
The university will hire 56 full-time, teaching-focused lecturers and professors over this academic year. It is one of several recent efforts at the research-focused institution to improve its educational environment. Others include the creation of a series of freshman seminars and the requirement that incoming students participate in a hands-on learning experience.
“It’s a piece in a larger puzzle,” said Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction.
The addition of instructional faculty represents only a 3-percent increase to the university’s full-time teaching staff, but it is notable for its focus. Other institutions have announced large, multiyear hiring campaigns in recent years, but they typically aim to bolster research capacity.
In cutting down class sizes, Georgia took a strategic approach, Mr. Shrivastav said. Administrators examined data to find the courses that students most frequently dropped out of, withdrew from, and failed. Consulting with deans and department heads, the academic leaders further zeroed in on courses with the worst bottlenecks that stymied student progress…
At Georgia, most of the new hires will be off the tenure track. Of the 56 new instructors, 16 will be on the tenure track; the rest will be full-time and focused on teaching, Mr. Shrivastav said. Each will be expected to teach four courses each semester.
The $4.4 million that will pay for the effort will cover faculty salaries and benefits, he said. The source is recent tuition increases: In-state tuition and fees have risen nearly 18 percent over the past four years.
Though students dislike the tuition increases, few see their connection to the class-size reduction effort, said Johnelle Simpson, president of the student-government association. And even if they did, he added, they would support that use of funds. “It’s a direct impact on them,” said Mr. Simpson, a senior majoring in risk management and insurance, and political science.
Great move on the part of the University of Georgia!