Universities: Overload pay cheaper than hiring more faculty

State universities paid $3.4 million in bonuses in latest fiscal year

Erin Jordan
Published: November 29 2011 | 7:41 am - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 7:03 am in
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Iowa’s three state universities paid professors a combined $3.4 million in bonuses for teaching beyond their required course loads in the year that ended June 30.

Despite efforts by the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University to limit overload pay, the schools paid out more in these bonuses than they did in 2008 before new policies were put in place.

“There are some people who will accept extra work projects if there is no limit and you’re not always sure you’re getting the best results,” said Virginia Arthur, UNI associate provost for faculty affairs.

Iowa’s state schools paid 613 professors overload in fiscal 2011, according to information The Gazette obtained through an Open Records request. These bonuses of $25 to $47,000 covered duties that ranged from announcing at a wrestling tournaments to teaching several extra courses.

University officials say paying experienced faculty to teach overload is cheaper than hiring new professors and limits the use of adjuncts or graduate assistants.

But ISU has been trying to abolish overload so faculty can focus on their regular teaching, research and service.

UI tops in overload pay

The UI paid $1.91 million in overload to 202 full-time professors in fiscal 2011. This is up 8 percent from 2008, when the university paid $1.76 million in bonuses for extra duties.

“It doesn’t surprise me a lot that overload pay has gone up,” said Tom Rice, UI associate provost for faculty. “We have more students and fewer faculty.”

In September 2008, the UI implemented a policy limiting full-time faculty to one overload course per semester, or up to eight credit hours per year. Summer courses don’t count toward the limit for most faculty. Online guided independent-study (GIS) courses are capped at 36 with faculty paid $93.50 per student.

Before that policy, some UI faculty received hefty bonuses for teaching multiple overload courses with large enrollments. One popular health sciences professor was paid $121,000 on top of his $74,000 salary in fiscal 2008 for teaching 10 courses more than his required load.

About 18 percent of the UI faculty who received overload pay in fiscal 2011 taught an online course for a total of 77 courses.

Kenneth Mobily, a UI leisure studies professor, was paid $29,676 in fiscal 2011 on top of his $86,000 salary for teaching human anatomy classes over his regular load. Mobily taught online sections in fall, spring and summer, as well as on-campus sections in January and May sessions.

Mobily, who has taught human anatomy for 25 years, received special permission to teach beyond the eight credit hour limit, Rice said.

“We’ve had a difficult time finding qualified human anatomy professors,” Rice said.

The top overload earner among Iowa’s public universities was David Hensley, a UI business professor, who was paid $47,000 for teaching three on-campus sections — including a summer course — of Entrepreneurial Finance. Non-GIS courses in the fall and spring are paid at 1/9 of base salary, which would be $19,315 for Hensley, whose base pay for last year was $173,836.

UNI has newest overload cap

UNI paid $1.36 million in overload pay in fiscal 2011 to 361 full- and part-time professors. Arthur said nearly $400,000 of that money was misclassified and should have been counted as part of faculty’s base pay.

Of the remainder, the largest portion, $595,000, came from bonuses paid to UNI faculty who taught extra courses over their regular loads.

The standard rate for teaching an overload 3-credit course at UNI is about $4,400. UNI professors can also get $3,000 for each online course they create and $1,000 for completing a training program on developing and delivering high-quality online courses.

UNI adopted a policy in January that caps faculty overload pay at 20 percent of base salary.

Gary Gute, an associate professor in UNI’s School of Applied Human Sciences, earned 28 percent of his base salary in overload during fiscal 2011.

He received $6,000 for developing online versions of his courses: Creativity and The Evolution of Culture and Human Growth and Development. He then received $1,000 for the online training and $8,778 for teaching two sections of the creativity course.

“I was reluctant at first,” Gute said about teaching online. “I am now a believer. If an online course is well designed, it can be a very successful experience.”

This year, Gute is limited to one online section beyond his regular load because of the 20 percent policy. This leaves 50 students waiting to get into his spring online course, capped at 35 students.

ISU striving to bring all teaching 'in load'

ISU paid the lowest total overload in fiscal 2011 with $138,000 to 50 full- and part-time faculty members.

Alan Murdoch, a half-time assistant professor of kinesiology, received the largest overload payment at $25,000 for coaching ISU’s hockey team. Four other professors received $12,500 each for teaching overload MBA courses.

ISU tries to include online teaching within faculty’s assigned duties, said Brenda Behling, director of academic policy and personnel. “Whether teaching in the classroom, online or distance education, it’s all part of your salary,” she said.

Paying faculty overload can save universities the cost of hiring more full-time faculty with benefits. It also allows the universities to meet accreditation rules limiting the use of part-time faculty or graduate assistants.

But there can be a point of diminishing returns, Behling said.

“It would hurt your research programs to continue to put out the same quantity of classes with fewer bodies,” she said.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, agrees. “If there is ongoing enrollment that is causing overload, the college or university should look at hiring regular full-time faculty,” he said.

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