Issue Briefs


Contingent faculty now comprise the majority of all faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. This brief, the first of a two-part series, presents a profile of the contingent workforce, examining the number and percentage of non-tenure-track faculty at colleges and universities based on a variety of institutional characteristics.

Little is known about whether relying more heavily on contingent faculty result in lower overall costs or if the money saved on instruction is being spent in other areas. This brief, the second in a two-part series, documents the financial trade-offs being made by institutions as they hire more part-time contingent faculty.


Faculty salaries, cuts in state aid, spending and “administrative bloat” all play a role in rising college costs. But a close look at staffing and compensation within the rapidly changing higher education workforce tells the full story.


Although undergraduates in the STEM and SBE fields tend to accumulate considerable student loan debt, this issue brief finds the opposite is true for many individuals pursuing doctorates in the sciences. Early debt accumulation at the undergraduate level can have dramatic implications for participation in advanced degrees, the brief explains.

This issue brief examines where STEM and SBE majors are earning their degrees and what these students typically pay for their undergraduate education, with special emphasis on underrepresented minority populations. Students are seeking more affordable options, the brief finds, but student loan debt is a growing concern for broaden participation in STEM fields.

This issue brief breaks down the “cost per degree” estimates for 28 disciplines, including those in the STEM fields, which are among the most expensive degrees to produce. The brief points to ways colleges can change their tuition structure to finance STEM degrees more affordably.

Concerns about college costs and student debt are at an all-time high. This issue brief looks into the impact that certain types of institutions and degree programs (STEM or SBE sciences) can have on a student’s potential debt load, particularly on students who are underrepresented in the STEM fields.

Athletics are big business on many college campuses, but does it come with a price tag? This issue brief looks at academic and athletic spending in NCAA Division I public universities between 2005 and 2010.



This report describes various approaches to calculating what it costs colleges to graduate students with bachelor’s degrees. The paper uses actual spending data from two public university systems to describe several ways to talk about the cost of bachelor’s degree education in different contexts.