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The National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity

What is The Cost Study?

The Cost Study is a discipline-level, comparative analysis of faculty teaching loads, direct instructional costs, and separately budgeted scholarly activity. Since 1995, the Study has allowed four-year, non-profit colleges and universities to answer important questions about their institution’s costs and productivity:

  • How do the teaching loads of tenured faculty in your academic programs compare with national benchmarks?
  • What proportion of undergraduate teaching at your institution is done by regular faculty, and how does that compare with other colleges and universities?
  • Does it cost more to deliver a student credit hour of instruction at your institution than it does at your peers?
  • How do externally funded research and service within your academic departments measure up against your competitors?

Who Participates in the Study?

Since the beginning of the study, nearly 700 four-year, non-profit colleges and universities, including:

  • New Jersey 4-year, public Colleges and Universities
  • City University of New York (CUNY) System
  • Connecticut State University System
  • Members of Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE)
  • Members of Southern Universities Group (SUG) Data Exchange
  • Members of Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium
  • University of North Carolina (UNC) System
  • University of Nebraska System
  • University of Missouri System
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)

Click HERE to view a complete list of participating institutions by cycle year.

What Data Are Collected for the Study?


  • Regular Faculty – Tenured/Tenure Eligible, Other Regular Faculty, Supplemental Faculty
  • Teaching Assistants: Credit Bearing Courses and Non-Credit Bearing Courses


  • Undergrad Lower and Upper Division SCH and Organized Class Sections
  • Graduate SCH and Organized Class Sections
  • Undergrad and Graduate Individualized Instruction SCH
  • Online Undergraduate and Graduate SCH


  • Direct Expenditures for Instruction: Salary and Benefits
  • Expenditures for Separately Budgeted Research Activities and Public Service Activities

What Analyses Are Offered to Participants?

  • National Benchmarks by Carnegie Classification, highest degree offered, and percent undergrad.
  • Additional comparisons for SUG and AAU schools.
  • Custom Peer Analyses with self-selected or data-driven peer groups.
  • Complete Institutional Report with Ratio tables.

Unique features of The Cost Study:

  • Comparisons are made at the academic discipline level of analysis.
  • Teaching workloads are analyzed by faculty type.
  • Contains longitudinal data that allows you to track trend data over time.
  • The Study methodology is regularly reviewed by the Higher Education Consortium Advisory Board.
  • The Study has widespread national acceptance and use.