What's Your Econ 101 Professor Worth?

The Texas A&M University system has embarked on a new accountability program. For every department – indeed, for every professor – revenue generated and?cost incurred are calculated; and?profit – the difference – is reported. Each professor is presumably supposed to have a?marginal revenue product above his/her compensation.

Cost (at least the professor’s pay) is easy to calculate.?? Unfortunately, the calculation of revenue includes only outside grants received and tuition revenue.? Any unfunded research, no matter where published, is assumed to have zero value, as is any service. Were this to spread throughout Texas (as I sadly expect it will), any publication – even in the most visible scholarly outlet, even if it affects how the average person thinks about the world – would be valued at zero; so too would an appearance in a nationally visible media outlet.

University administrators facing these incentives would have every reason to construct a faculty of grant-hustlers and low-paid teachers (subject, one might perhaps vainly hope, to some minimum teaching quality).? Despite the traditional UT-A&M rivalry, I hate to see a great institution do this damage to itself.? Worse still, this kind of mindless accounting, if it spreads, would increase still further the widening gulf between the quality of the nation’s best private universities and its top public universities.? Very depressing – especially to someone who has spent 38 years teaching at public universities.

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  1. Steve Nations says:

    Does this apply to the Athletic Department also? Does it apply to individual sports/teams? I would hope so. (For the record, I’m a BIG sports fan, but jeez – fair is fair.)

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  2. Sully says:

    As a Former Student of Texas A&M & the Mays Business School, this is disheartening. I had some very good professors down in Aggieland (some of whom i re-connect with from time to time) and I worry/wonder if some of them will leave the university because of this.

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  3. Proud Aggie says:

    Loftin made it clear that the purpose of the cost-benefit analysis was not to “assess the overall productivity” of each professor. I highly doubt that professors are going to start losing their job because they came out “in the red.”

    My guess is that the spreadsheet was merely a look at where payroll was going, and what sources of revenue the University has been working with. And if a few of the professors who have a net “cost” to the university find a way to become better professors because of it, great.

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  4. Ian Callum says:

    Professors are worth much more than administrators.

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  5. Ben D says:

    Prof. Hamermesh, perhaps you should present some research attempting to quantify the value to the university or the public of publications and TV appearances.

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  6. Eduard Beckstein says:

    “…mindless accounting”
    Exactly, this seems like the apotheosis of a fool’s errand, launching a new “program” to try and calculate what they admit in advance is necessarily incalculable. Teas A&M fail….

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  7. Barry says:

    So Texas A&M admits that higher ed is a business. What a shocker.

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  8. Nosybear says:

    Why do you see the need for a quality requirement when the only metric is revenue?

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