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Increased student body raises Student- Teacher ratio at Rice

By Dixita Viswanath     10/4/12 7:00pm


Though the administration is trying to increase student enrollment as part of its Vision for the Second Century, the number of faculty has not increased commensurately, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. 

As a result, the student-faculty ratio is 6:1, as compared to 5.2:1 in 2005, Hutchinson said. 

According to Hutchinson, the number of faculty is fixed and does not fluctuate drastically from year to year. 

"In our Vision for the Second Century, we are trying to increase student enrollment from 2,800 to 3,800," Hutchinson said. "Since we did not hire an influx of professors, our student-teacher ratio will be a bit higher than in the past."

Rice currently has 3,708 undergraduate and 2,374 graduate degree-seeking students, according to Hutchinson, who received this information from the Office of Institutional Research. This number is projected to increase in the future. 

The student-faculty ratio in 2000 was 7:1, according to U.S. News and World Report. This decreased to 5.2:1 in 2005 and increased again to 5.7:1 in 2010. 

 In addition, U.S. News and World Report states that 69.6 percent of Rice's classes have fewer than 20 students while 22.5 percent of Rice's classes have between 20 and 49 students in the class. Only 8 percent of classes have over 50 students. The average class size for all classes at Rice, according to the Office of Institutional Research, is 21 students, while the median is 13. 

Recently, upper-level engineering classes have had relatively high enrollment, according to Hutchinson, who received the information from the Office of Institutional Research. Hutchinson said this increase is due to student body's shifting interests. 

"The population of students moves around from year to year," Hutchinson said. "Since we are a small university, the demand for different majors will vary over time. In both the past and future, we will have dramatic increases in all subjects."

Brown College senior and electrical engineer Isabella Gonzalez said she believes the class sizes for engineering classes are much higher than that of courses in other departments. 

"If I had to guess, the [typical class size] is 15 for electrical engineering students," Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez attributes the increase in class size for electrical engineering courses to the increased interest in the major. 

"My classes are really unnaturally large," Gonzalez said. "In the year above us, there were about 20 electrical engineers. In my year, there are about 45 electrical engineers."

Sid Richardson senior and economics, classical studies and policy studies major Neeraj Salhotra said class sizes may be different for upper-level humanities courses. 

"I am currently taking three classes where it is just me and the professor," Salhotra said. "The upper-level courses in these subjects are great for their small faculty interaction."

Will Rice College sophomore and political science major Devynn Moreno, who was previously an architecture student, said the ratio can differ by distribution. 

"Our architecture [class size] was typically 13," Moreno said. "Currently, I would predict the average [class size at Rice] to be 20."

Brown College junior and bioengineering major Melody Tan said bioengineering classes are much larger. 

"For most bioengineering classes, not including general math and science courses that are required for our major, I would estimate that the [class size] is 50," Tan said. 

The overall student-faculty ratio is calculated using a formula published by the U.S. News and World Report. Senior Director of News and Media Relations BJ Almond said it involves both full-time and part-time students and faculty. 

"The [student-faculty] ratio is the the ratio of full-time equivalent students plus one-third part-time students to full-time equivalent instructional faculty plus one-third part-time," Almond said. 

Hutchinson said full-time equivalent faculty does not include those who are predominantly involved in teaching graduate-level students, teaching assistants, undergraduate assistants, faculty at the Jones School of Business or undergraduate student-taught courses. Part-time instructors are added on a fractional basis, according to Hutchinson. 

"At Rice, we have 617 faculty with full-time equivalence," Hutchinson said. 

Full-time equivalent professors do not necessarily carry tenure, according to Hutchinson. He defined tenure as a continuing contract with the university throughout a professor's career. 

"When hired initially, faculty are normally hired without tenure with the plan that they will get tenure," Hutchinson said. "Faculty are expected to carry on scholarship throughout their years at Rice. Scholarship entails creative production, design or publication."

Hutchinson said that professors undergo a review for tenure in their seventh year of professorship at Rice. If tenure is not granted, the professor will be given an eighth year to find a different job at another university. 

The rules and time scale for tenure vary by university, according to Hutchinson. In addition, tenure from one university may not necessarily carry over to another university if a professor changes jobs. 

According to Hutchinson, 23 percent of professors at Rice are on the non-tenure track, which means there is not a plan to consider them for tenure. Although they are on the non-tenure track, they can still be considered full-time faculty. 

"[Ann Saterbak] won the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2011 and is an excellent member of our faculty. Although she does not hold tenure, she does still count as a full-time faculty member of the Rice community," Hutchinson said. 

The student-faculty ratio at comparable universities is at a similar level, according to U.S. News and World Report. Dartmouth College has a 8:1 student-faculty ratio and 64.7 percent of classes there have fewer than 20 students. Duke University's student-faculty ratio is 7:1, and 71.6 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. 

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