Budget panels assail colleges on teaching load

March 25, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer

Concerned about the rising cost of college, Maryland legislators criticized the state's public universities yesterday for not requiring professors to spend more time teaching.

On average, full-time faculty members at the University of Maryland College Park teach slightly more than three courses a year, meaning they spend fewer than five hours a week in the classroom.

The numbers are higher at the state's nonresearch campuses, such as Towson State University, where the average course load is seven a year, or 10 1/2 hours in the classroom a week, according to figures compiled by the University of Maryland System.

"I don't think a 12-hour load is asking too much," said Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore.

Some two dozen state university officials, worried about micro-managing by state lawmakers, attended the joint meeting of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

A recent analysis by the Maryland Higher Education Commission calculated that the University of Maryland System could save about $33 million a year by requiring its faculty to teach a full course load, as established by the American Association of University Professors.

The AAUP has set maximum course load standards of five classes a year for professors at research universities and eight at teaching-oriented campuses.

"If you would increase the teaching load, you would save money . . . and not keep increasing tuition," said Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll.

University of Maryland Chancellor Donald L. Langenberg reminded lawmakers that classroom instruction is only part of a professor's duties. Faculty members are also expected to serve on campus committees, meet with students and prepare for class, he said. At research universities such as College Park, professors are also expected to do research, which often generates funding from other sources, such as the federal government.

Requiring professors to spend more time in the classroom will only take them away from their other duties, Dr. Langenberg said.

The legislature's two budget committees have recommended that university officials return next fall with standards for how many classes professors should teach and a clear policy on how faculty would be exempted from the standards. Until they do, the lawmakers promise to withhold about $21 million in funding.

State Higher Education Secretary Shaila R. Aery said yesterday she hears many complaints from students shut out of classes they need to fulfill graduation requirements.

"I think we are going to have to increase the amount of undergraduate teaching," Dr. Aery told legislators. She noted that states such as Florida and Ohio have written requirements for course-load minimums into state law.

But Dr. Aery urged the legislature not to go that route. Instead, she suggested that lawmakers add money to the budget and direct it toward improving undergraduate instruction.

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