Throughout the industrialized and developing world, two large trends are splitting off in conflicting directions, straining higher education institutions and the sector at large. The world’s youth population continues to reach historic heights year after year, with higher demands of degrees and training. Yet at the same time, there is increasing pressure to curb expenditures. There is only so much extra work teachers can take on before it begins to compromise quality.
These are only some of the findings in a report by the American Council on Education titled “Instructional Quality, Student Outcomes and Institutional Finances.” The report is primarily focused on the relationship between instructional quality and net institutional revenues and the contradicting forces between the two.
Over the course of researching the report, the authors put to test the assumption that there is a positive correlation between quality and expenditures in every case. Part of the reason for this long-held belief its the general lack of data among institutions to measure and prove it false. But by taking a look at the places that do try to gain some understanding of the association, there actually does appear to be a positive relationship between expenditure and instructional quality. However, for the link to hold true, those investments have to be carried out with particular care.
Surveying the different ways in which institutions make their investments, it became clear that giving teachers plenty of time to develop curricula, especially working in teams, spurs a cycle of higher class engagement, better scores, increased retention, and higher revenues. Teachers who were part of the team yielded higher rates of satisfaction by students.
Among the fortunate teams who were able to try new things, the use of technology and approaches like blended learning, which involves some mixture of virtual and face-to-face learning, was common among those receiving the highest ratings. School administrators also shared a positive view of online education, particularly due to cost-effectiveness.
The authors warn that this is only preliminary research. They obtained evidence from a small number of colleges and universities in the US. Measuring the full cycle requires a lot more effort in gathering data on the school level and an agreement to disclose financial information.