BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 1/17/17
THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF FOUR ARTICLES
A recent analysis of itemized salary data more fully documents the compensation of Adams State University (ASU) faculty, staff and administration. In some areas, the data suggests a pattern of intentional coursework overloads, additional compensation more than doubling the salaries of a few faculty, potential cronyism and nepotism, and questionable compensation packages for administrators. This article will focus on the large student overloads of ASU courses – online and on campus. The other articles in this series are available at the links provided above.
Upon obtaining university enrollment data, Watching Adams noted that some online student teaching loads were unusually high – more than double the maximum possible on campus in some cases. This drew serious questions about the academic integrity of the coursework from accreditors and on-campus employees – particularly at an institution that openly advertises “small class sizes” and higher education with a personal touch.
INVESTIGATING THE OFFICE OF EXTENDED STUDIES
Our investigative report was prompted by the release of the Mathieu Report in September 2016, in which an external review of ASU’s Office of Extended Studies (OES) concluded that the program was “largely dysfunctional” with “very serious deficiencies” and “a culture of questionable academic practice that appears to have been in place for many years.”
The report, conducted between August 8-11th, 2016 by Dr. David Mathieu, found major academic compliance problems and organizational failures at many levels. In part, it describes faculty members personally enriching themselves in excess of $150,000 annually while overlooking major aspects of academic integrity.
At that point, Watching Adams obtained documentation of faculty making over $100,000 annually by teaching online between 2013-2016. We also obtained documentation of Extended Studies student enrollment per faculty member, revealing the number of students and sections taught online during 2013-2015. These earnings go well above what all faculty make teaching on campus, particularly adjunct faculty who could expect to earn no more than $24,000 in an academic year teaching a similar student load in a physical building.
While on-campus faculty are paid per course, Extended Studies generally pays faculty per student enrolled. This difference proved critical when it came to on-campus versus online class sizes.
VERY LARGE ONLINE STUDENT ENROLLMENT
Many on-campus faculty were alarmed to learn that online faculty were not only being paid two or three times their salaries, but that the number of students they were teaching contradicted academic best practices related to student contact hours.
According to the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) September 2015 Report of an Advisory Visit: “A regular FT [full time] campus-based faculty teaching load is 12 cr. hrs. for the fall and spring semesters. Review of Fall 2015 courses listed in the Banner enrollment system showed enrollment caps of 24 students in all lower level English courses and caps of 36 for Math 104 and 42 for Math 106. Thus, full-time on-campus English faculty could teach approximately 192 students per year, and math faculty could teach a maximum of either 288 (Math 104) or 336 (Math106) students per year in these lower level courses. These numbers contrast sharply with the much larger volumes seen in Extended Studies open enrollment sections.”
- Math instructor Jessica Aldrich taught a total of 529 students in 11 sections of 2 online courses in the 2015-2016 academic year. For this work, Aldrich was paid $109,575. And as one on-campus faculty member observed, “It is worth keeping in mind that prior to teaching online, Aldrich was denied a tenure-track position at ASU where she taught far fewer students in physical classrooms. It’s hard to comprehend how the same group of colleagues who questioned her performance in the physical classroom deemed her fit to teach far more students online.”
- Math instructor Jill Coddington, made $176,400 teaching 703 students in 21 sections of 4 online courses in 2013-2014. In the years just prior and after this, Coddington taught similar student loads and was compensated $124,425 and $144,225.00 respectively.
- Communication Arts instructor Benjamin Longfellow was paid $131,400 teaching 606 students in 23 sections of 2 courses online during the 2014-2015 academic year.
- At the same time, Communications Arts instructor Kristen Scott was paid $119,925 teaching 542 students in 15 sections of 2 courses. All of these high teaching loads were classified as being performed by “Faculty – Part Time.”
One faculty reacted to this data by stating, “As any outside observer would likely conclude, Adams State has clearly leveraged growth by turning a blind eye to extremely obvious ethical violations within Extended Studies. In the short run, this strategy allowed for unprecedented compensation for a select few; however, in the long run it may very well undermine the whole university.”
HIGH COST OF TEACHING OVERLOADS IN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Another area of concern was the practice of paying full time faculty an overload (at a premium salary increase) to teach additional coursework rather than hiring another faculty. This was noted as a concern by the Higher Learning Commission given that these additional teaching overloads could compromise the academic quality of the instruction for full time faculty.
Watching Adams investigated this practice of sustained overloading by obtaining itemized salary data of 48 employees at a cost of $330 in “research and retrieval” fees from ASU Human Resources. Employees whose compensation was relevant to our investigation has been posted here.
- The School of Business included several examples of consistent overloads. Dr. Liz Thomas Hensley, Assistant Professor of Marketing and MBA Director, received substantial course overload pay between the 2013-2016 fiscal years. For these overloads, Dr. Thomas Hensley was paid $7,000 in 2013, $13,500 in 2014, $15,000 in 2015, and $20,000 in 2016.
- Armando Valdez, Assistant Professor of Business, also received significant overload pay between these years. For overloads, Valdez was paid $7,000 in 2013, $9,800 in 2014, $12,500 in 2015, and $14,000 in 2016. Valdez was also compensated for additional teaching duties not marked as overloads, which also increased his base salary. In total, these additional teaching loads increased his salary by almost 70% during these years.
- Dr. Linda Reid, Professor of Business, was paid even more from a combination of teaching overloads, supplemental and high enrollment line items. In total, Dr. Reid was paid an additional $14,800 in 2013, $27,000 in 2014, $21,000 in 2015, and $30,000 in 2016. One ASU faculty observed, “She received more compensation for overloads in 2016 than most of our adjunct faculty would receive in a full year teaching 10 courses. At $1,800 per course, an adjunct would need to teach 16 courses to earn what Linda earns for 4 overloads.”
For more on how these overloads and online instruction arrangements increased the salaries of several faculty, see Several ASU Faculty more than Doubled Salaries from Additional Compensation.
ONE SPANISH LANGUAGE FACULTY AT AN HSI, TEACHING OVERLOADS
- Dr. Eva Rayas Solis, Associate Professor of Spanish, was paid a total of $73,565 in 2014. Her base salary was $50,916 plus an additional $21,000 from course overloads. Dr. Rayas Solis is the only professor in the Spanish area of the History, Anthropology, Political Science, Philosophy, Spanish (HAPPS) department and the only Spanish language faculty at ASU.
This despite the university being designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). According to two top Colorado state educators, Adams State University only graduates 22.2% of its undergraduate student body in four years. One ASU faculty recalled as few as 11% of ASU’s Hispanic students graduating in four years.
An ASU faculty member confirmed that HAPPS chair Dr. Ed Crowther declined repeated offers for additional Spanish-speaking adjuncts to teach within the department. The faculty member said, “In retrospect, it would have made sense for Dr. Crowther to hire someone else – as opposed to paying Dr. Rayas Solis overloads. Furthermore, insomuch as the quality of one’s education goes, it would have behooved the students to have more than one Spanish-language professor during their career at ASU!”
As noted in the Mathieu report, “Solicitation of candidate information contributing to a perpetually robust pool of available adjunct faculty has apparently not been done in recent memory. Human Resources and the OES reported a dwindling pool of adjunct faculty as a partial explanation for faculty course overloads.”
The report then goes on to recommend having an available pool of adjunct instructors to prevent such course overloading in the future. Hopefully, such adjuncts will be paid in a timely manner.
In the next article in this series, Watching Adams analyzes supplemental compensation arrangements that more than doubled some ASU faculty and administrator salaries.