13 May 2010

Some Calculations on College Prices

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 8:20 am

The average price of private college tuition in the US for the 2009-10 school year (not including room and board) was $26,273.

Let’s say that the typical college student takes 15 hours of coursework per semester, and that the typical semester is 16 weeks long, with 2 semesters per school year. The price each student pays for in-class time = $26,273/15/16/2 = $55 per hour. Let’s suppose that, for every hour spent in class, the professor spends 2 hours outside of class preparing, marking papers, etc. So now it’s $55/3 = $18/hour that each student pays for his/her share of the professor’s time for teaching that class.

Dr. Jones is teaching a 4-hour class with 25 students enrolled. For that class Dr. Jones brings in $55 x 4 x 25 = $5,500 per week for 12 hours’ work. If Dr. Jones teaches 3 courses per semester, he will bring in ($5,500 per week)  x (16 weeks) x (3 classes per semester) x (2 semesters) = $528,000 per year. In doing so he will have put in 12 x 16 x 3 x 2 = 1152 hours of work. That’s a billable rate of $458 per hour.

A reasonable estimate is that, on average, professors (including assistants, associates, and part-timers) in US private colleges make about $55,000 plus benefits = $65,000 per year.

Divide this $65K annual pay by the 1152 teaching hours worked, and the teacher makes $56.42 per hour. That’s 56.42/458 = 12.3% of the billable hourly rate. If the private college students paid their professors at this rate, the annual tuition cost would be $26,273 x .123 = $3,237 per year. Of course the teachers and students would have to find someplace for the classes to meet, clean the place up after they’re done, figure out how to function without the administrators, etc.



  1. In conversation today with a friend who’s a professor at a private university, he thinks I’m underestimating the average teacher salary at the private colleges. Okay, bump it up another $10K. The broader implications of the calculations aren’t really affected. And of course many students don’t pay the sticker price: there are scholarships and student aid packages to help high-performing students whose families would be unduly hit financially by the tuition. Blah blah blah… just talking to myself here.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 May 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  2. Very good point. On the radio this morning I heard that the top 20 universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial etc are calling on the Government to allow them to set their fees even higher. Blair introduced university fees after Major got rid of grants following reductions and a freeze against inflation by Thatcher. Average debt for university graduates (BA or BSC) now stands at £20,000. They want them to pay back their loans more quickly too. The top univeristies often point to their lack of funds compared to America’s Ivy League.

    I don’t want to close down Oxford’s Dreaming Spires, but surely there’s a better way?


    Comment by NB — 14 May 2010 @ 5:44 am

  3. It’s worth pointing out that those politicians all benefited from a fee-free, grant-assisted university education in the 50s and 60s.


    Comment by NB — 14 May 2010 @ 5:45 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: