The problem with professor pay and classroom sizes

Mary Peters-

Salaries are always a bit of a touchy subject, particularly on college campuses. Not only are salaries very complicated, but they are often a direct reflection of an individual’s worth to their organization. That being said, a paycheck should adequately reflect the amount of work that an individual has put in. For a professor, the most straightforward way to quantify their workload would be to count how many students they teach, right? It’s a basic idea in principle, but in reality it’s rarely that simple.

Professors across college campuses are being required to teach classes which seem to be constantly increasing in size. While these professors watch their class sizes grow, they rarely see their paycheck rise in relation to it.  An article written by John Higgins in the Seattle Times highlighted this and explained the results of several studies on the subject, which found that smaller class sizes don’t always lead to better instruction, as most professors don’t change their practices depending on the amount of students. However, students do tend to behave and pay attention better in smaller class sizes. So if professors generally do not change their practice depending on the amount of students they have to teach, should they be paid more?

Dr. Kevin Drzakowski, Associate Professor for the English and Philosophy Department at University of WisconsinStout, made the note that, “In some subjects, raising class sizes won’t affect instructor workload very much.” He elaborated that courses taught as a large lecture can accommodate for more students in different ways without much burden on the instructor. For example, technology makes it far easier to grade with Scantrons or online, multiple choice exams. In contrast, Drzakowski recognizes that, in the case of smaller, more interactive courses, “where individual feedback is important, particularly classes that rely heavily on writing, increasing the class size can create a serious workload issue.” Basically, when an instructor has more students to respond to, it is obvious that there will be more work for the instructor. “If [these] class sizes are raised without an accompanying raise in pay, then it’s essentially a pay cut for the instructor,” pointed out Drzakowski.

The pay given to any individual will always be heavily debated and often adjusted, especially when it’s the salary of an instructor on a college campus. A professor’s salary can be influenced by many factors, including the number of courses taught and the professor’s qualifications. These specific factors and their level of influence needs to be carefully contemplated and constantly readjusted, taking into account changes in the university and in the society around them. With cautious consideration of workload, time commitment and necessary interaction, we become one step closer to determining the most adequate pay the instructors should receive.