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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments
with Information Technology Professionals

The Kansas Study:
A National Study of Community College Instructional Costs
and Productivity

Johnson County
Community College

 


For years, studies have assessed instructional productivity and costs by collecting data on institutions. In the past year, Johnson County Community College began the process of drilling deeper by initiating a study to benchmark by discipline as well.

The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) awarded Johnson County Community College (KS) $282,000 to develop and implement a methodology of collecting and reporting on community college instructional costs, as well as faculty instructional and service activities, on a national basis. The project was based on the well-established Delaware Study – a methodology developed for four-year colleges and universities.

The Delaware Study is less effective at two-year level than it is for universities because of fundamental differences in faculty work and activity across the two sectors. Specifically, university faculty – the majority of whom are full-time employees – are expected to engage in three major activities: teaching, scholarly, research, and institutional and public service. Community college faculty, on the other hand, are charged with teaching higher loads. Further, the percentage of part-time or adjunct faculty is much higher than in universities.

The Kansas Study, then, aims to address a critical information gap for community college academic planners, for whom no reliable source has previously existed. It will result in implementation of a methodology that will afford community college administrators the opportunity to identify, define, and report costs, and then use the aggregated data provided for both internal and external comparisons and benchmarking. As a result, community college academic planners and managers will have a reliable set of information tools designed to maximize instructional resource use and facilitate cost containment, keeping higher education affordable and increasing access for students across the country.

Project Goals

Higher education has come under increased pressure to become more cost accountable and to more effectively and efficiently manage human and fiscal resources. In 1998, Congress created a National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, charged with developing recommendations to guide and inform public policy with respect to cost containment.

The Kansas Study uses a data-collection methodology and reporting process that will establish a comprehensive national cost-productivity database for community colleges. This database will allow colleges to analyze faculty workload in a way that enables them to fully describe what types of courses are being taught, what types of institutional and public service they provide, and how much it all costs. Moreover, the database will enable institutions to compare their academic and fiscal resource-use patterns with peer institutions.

Not least, the project will provide a new management tool that will enable community colleges to make more informed resource allocation and reallocation decisions, while enhancing overall productivity and cost efficiency. In short, it will permit college administrators to make more informed decisions at the program level.

Year One: A Plan and a Pilot

According to Kansas Study Director Jeffrey Seybert, a major part of the project is the design and implementation of an advisory committee.  The Community College Instructional Costs and Productivity Advisory Committee is charged with identifying and defining data elements, as well as with devising a reporting strategy. The committee is made up of community college researchers, chief academic officers who are the primary users of the data, and representatives of national higher education policy organizations. Finally, this committee acts in both formative and summative evaluation of the study.

The Johnson County Community College (JCCC) Office of Institutional Research is strategically poised to host the project. The office was established in 1970 and has a strong history of using data for planning and decision making. JCCC commits significant resources annually to research. Seybert, who is Director of Research, Evaluation, and Instructional Development at JCCC, is widely regarded as a leader in community college institutional research. His eight-member staff brings experience and national credibility that is likely to attract the participation of many other community colleges in the project.

The advisory committee met three times in Year One to provide initial design. Assessed objectives are

  • Design and pilot test the study’s data collection methodology, instrumentation, and reporting process;
  • Implement the study with as many community colleges as is practicable;
  • Evaluate and improve the methodology, instrumentation, and reporting process;
  • Disseminate information about the study and participants’ uses of the data and information the study results provide; and
  • Develop strategies to ensure continuation of the study after completion of the FIPSE funding.

Successes and Lessons Learned

According to Seybert, the first two steps of the Kansas Study have been accomplished. This past spring, participants undertook a small pilot study, using data from 10 programs in each of 12 institutions. The results of that pilot have been studied “to see what the wrinkles would be, Seybert says, “and there were plenty of wrinkles.” Most of those had to do with federal codes for Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), since many CIPs can apply to one discipline.

The advisory committee will meet again in early October to take a look at the results of the initial pilot. Meanwhile, Kansas Study participants are gearing up for what they refer to as the Big Pilot. They are hoping to recruit another 50 to 100 institutions when they roll the study out nationwide in mid-January of 2004.

“I think we’ll get 50,” Seybert says, “but you have to realize, this is not an insignificant reporting task. It’s going to take a lot of data gathering on the part of the participating institutions. And the second page of that is cost: Multiply that by 50 to 70 institutions. They’re going to have to have the research capability to do that.”


For more information, contact

Jeffrey Seybert
Director of Research, Evaluation, and Instructional Development
Johnson County Community College
Overland Park, KS
(913) 469-8500, ext. 3442


 
 

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