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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 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?

Nearly 700 colleges and universities, including:

  • 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.

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.