I’m going to divert a little bit from a commentary on sports today.

As a teacher and coach for 40 years, I have long encouraged my students to seek higher education degrees. As we all know, the cost has become excessive and students and parents alike are crushed with huge financial debt.

Universities increase tuition and fees well beyond the rate of inflation, and housing costs in college towns are excessive. I have thought long and hard about a solution to this crisis.

I think I have one.

Most people do not know the number of classes college professors teach and the number of hours per week they engage in actually instructing students. Most instructors teach one or two classes.

On rare occasions, they may have three courses they teach. If they have two three-unit classes, it means they’re in a classroom environment one hour per unit. This equates to six hours per week teaching the next generation what they need to earn a degree and join the workforce.

One of the consequences of such a practice is that there are usually not enough classes available that the students must have to graduate. They have to wait through certain cycles in order to complete required courses. I have walked through several college campuses over the years during the middle of the day only to discover fully half the classrooms are empty.

In my opinion, there should be no empty classrooms during a typical school day at college. Tax money pays for the operation and salaries of public universities so the utilization of facilities should be efficient and at a maximum.

In this way students are better served and will graduate on time (four years).

Why would this help with costs, you ask?

Well, instead of students needing five and six years to graduate, taking up precious and limited housing units off campus, more spaces would become available and competition to get renters would naturally drive down costs.

How can we achieve the goal of driving room and board costs down, as well as lowering tuition and fees? Simple: make the professors teach more classes.

I’d say at least four and preferably five. That would equate to 12 to 15 hours of instruction per week, eight months a year. Currently a professor’s level of compensation occurs for maybe a six-hour work week.

I think college professors’ primary job is to teach our young people – not do research. It seems to me that they can still get a high level of research accomplished working a 15-hour week!

I realize colleges like to brag about the accolades and prizes some of their professors are awarded based upon their research, but the current practice of research papers as priority over teaching is giving our next generation debt burdens no one should endure.

I’ve heard the argument that if college professors were required to teach more classes, they would leave and go into private industry. I’m going to irritate some people with this next comment — if they could really excel in private industry that is where they would be.

Private companies expect results from their “research“. You’d better solve the problems given to you to solve, instead of just writing about it at the end of each year, or you will be fired.

So they’re probably not going anywhere.

Since everyone would graduate on time, competition would again force costs down as everyone eligible for college would be accepted. And if private universities wanted to remain competitive, they, too, would need to lower their costs.

Furthermore, education achievement at the secondary level would improve, because students would know that if they got the grades, they would be accepted to the college of their choice; since costs would actually be reasonable they could all go.

So, state university boards, regents and chancellors, write the rules so professors teach more classes. Do something in the best interest of the young people and their families, not the teachers and their unions.

Greg Sarkisian has coached high school athletics on the Central Coast for more than three decades, spending 30 seasons as St. Joseph's head cross country coach and 35 seasons as the school's head track and field coach. At St. Joseph, Sarkisian's track and field athletes won 24 individual CIF championships under his tutelage. He also taught mathematics for 38 years at the high school level and for 27 years at Allan Hancock College.


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