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“Origin of Instructor” Method

The method used by The Cost Study that assigns instructors and their associated instructional activity to the academic program where the instructor is budgeted, regardless of where the activity is delivered.

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Missing vs. Zero Data

Beginning in the 2020 cycle, The Cost Study requires that all data fields are filled in with a value, unless you wish for them to be treated as missing data. Missing data in the data entry form (i.e., empty cells) should be reserved for scenarios where you are unable to provide a value to the study. In all other cases, cells should be filled in with a zero. For example, if you have a program that does not deliver any graduate-level courses, the SCH and OCS for those cells should be zero. However, for example, if you are unable to determine the number of FTE Supplemental Faculty for a program, the cell should be left empty.

Additionally, certain cells on the data entry form in the web portal (e.g., separately budget research and public service expenditures) ask you to check a box to confirm that the blank cell indicates that you are unable to provide a value.

Please do NOT leave a cell empty to indicate what you perceive as an “impossibility”. For example, if a program does not have any supplemental FTE (value = zero), then clearly it would be impossible to have any SCH taught by supplemental faculty. However, those SCH values should still be zero, because ultimately, there are zero SCH taught by supplemental faculty in that program.

Additionally, we account for these impossibilities in the calculation of metrics: any metric that has a zero in the denominator will result in a blank value. For example, zero SCH divided by zero FTE supplemental faculty will result in a blank value for the SCH/FTE Faculty metric for supplemental faculty. A blank value in the calculated metrics indicates that we were unable to produce that metric.

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An academic unit (identified by CIP code) used to report data and produce benchmarks for The Cost Study. Programs should be disaggregated only to the degree that they have distinguishable budgets. Typically, this occurs at the department level; however, institutions may choose to report at the college level or disaggregate departments into more specific programs if full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty counts, student credit hours (SCH), organized class sections (OCS), and direct expenditures can be clearly separated into those programs.

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Instructional Budget

The basic operating budget of an academic program that funds faculty instructional activity. The instructional budget also supports research and service that is generally part of the workload expectation of tenured and tenure-track faculty and may be a part of the workload expectation of some regular, non-tenured faculty (not to be confused with separately-budgeted research and public service expenses).

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Direct Expenditures

The Cost Study collects data on total direct expenditure data in certain functional areas – instruction, research, and public service. Direct expenditure data reflect costs incurred for personnel compensation, supplies, and services used in the conduct of each of these functional areas. They include acquisition costs of capital assets such as equipment and library books to the extent that funds are budgeted for and used by operating departments for instruction, research, and public service. For purposes of this study, exclude centrally allocated computing costs and centrally supported computer labs, graduate student tuition remission, and fee waivers.


  • Direct instructional expenditures are disaggregated into three pieces of data (Salaries, Benefits, and Other Than Personnel Expenditures).
  • Direct Instructional Expenditure data comes from the major terms in the fiscal year that are supported by an academic program’s instructional budget. These major terms are generally fall and spring at institutions on a semester calendar, and fall, winter and spring at institutions on a quarter/trimester calendar.
  • Consistent with IPEDS, the instruction function may include general academic instruction, occupational and vocational instruction, community education, preparatory and adult basic education, and remedial and tutorial instruction conducted by the faculty for the institution’s students. However, for the purposes of The Cost Study, you should only include instruction that is supported by a program’s instructional budget.
  • Departmental research and service that are not separately budgeted should be included under instructional expenses.
  • Exclude expenditures for academic administration where the primary function is administration. For example, exclude deans, but include department chairs.

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For The Cost Study, a course is defined as an instructional activity, identified by academic discipline and number, in which students enroll, typically to earn academic credit applicable to a degree objective.

  • Exclude courses that are not-for-credit. Not-for-credit, or noncredit, courses are typically offered in continuing education and are not used toward the acquisition of a degree. Additionally, these courses are often not supported by the program’s instructional budget.
  • Include course sections with zero credits which are requirements of or prerequisites to degree programs, and which are scheduled, and consume institutional or departmental resources in the same manner as credit courses. Zero-credit course sections are typically supplemental to the credit bearing lecture portion of a course. Zero-credit sections are frequently listed as laboratory, discussion, or recitation sections in conjunction with the credit bearing lecture portion of a course. If zero-credit courses are taught by TAs, they should be reported under the non-credit bearing TA faculty type.
  • Include in-person, online (both synchronous and asynchronous), and hybrid instruction, so long as the course has regular and substantive interaction between instructor(s) and students (i.e., you should exclude non-traditional courses such as Massive Open Online Courses).

Course Section: A unique group of students that meets with one or more instructors. Course sections of the same course should be counted as unique Organized Class Sections. For example, if a program offers four sections of English Composition, those should be treated as four distinct Organized Class Sections.

The Cost Study collects information on two types of courses: Organized Class Sections and Individualized Instruction. Use the Course Section Decision Tree to determine how courses should be classified.

  • Organized Class Sections (OCS): A course that is provided principally by means of regularly scheduled classes meeting in classrooms or similar facilities at stated times or in a similar online environment. These courses will contribute to the student credit hour (unless they are zero-credit hour courses) and organized class section counts.
    • OCS can be classified as either lab/discussion/recitation sections or standard OCS (UG lower division, UG upper division, or graduate).
    • Lab/discussion/recitation sections are typically one- or zero-credit sections that supplement the primary lecture portion of a course. However, they can bear any number of credits and may also be offered without an associated lecture section.
  • Individualized Instruction: A course in which instruction is not conducted in regularly scheduled class meetings.
    • This may include reading courses; research courses including dissertation/thesis research; individual lesson courses (typically in music and fine arts); and other out-of-classroom courses such as independent studies, practicums, and internships. However, these courses could be counted as OCS if they are structured similarly to the OCS at your institution.
    • Undergraduate and graduate Individualized Instruction will contribute to the SCH counts, but they are not assigned any corresponding OCS counts.
    • Because Individualized Instruction is not assigned any corresponding OCS in The Cost Study, the decision to classify something as an Organized Class (with both OCS and SCH counts) vs Individualized Instruction (with SCH but no OCS counts) will influence some workload metrics, such as OCS/FTE Faculty. When determining if a course is an Organized Class Section or Individualized Instruction, you should use a classification system that most closely reflects the reality of course structures at your institution.


  • Clinicals and Field Experiences: Clinical courses (nursing, education, law, etc.) and other similar courses (e.g., field experiences) can be classified as either Organized Class Sections or Individualized Instruction depending on how these types of courses are structured at your institution. If they are smaller enrolled courses, do not have designated meeting times, and are more like “supervision” responsibilities, then they should be classified as Individualized Instruction. If they are organized, with set meeting days and times, then you could classify them as an Organized Class Section.
    • If these courses are classified as OCS, you will then need to determine if they should be counted as lab OCS, a standard OCS, or both (i.e., containing both a lecture portion and a lab portion).
  • Dual and Cross Listed Courses: In reporting the number of sections taught at the respective levels of instruction, to the extent that your database allows, please make certain not to double count dual listed courses (undergraduate and graduate sections of a single course meeting concurrently) and cross listed courses (a single course in which students from two or more disciplines may register under their respective department call letters). In the instance of dual listed courses (a single course listed at both undergraduate and graduate level) parse out the student credit hours based upon how the students were registered. Be sure to then count the associated section the same way as the student credit hours by apportioning the section into the appropriate levels. With cross listed courses (a single course listed with multiple departmental call letters) assign all student credit hours and number of sections to the department funding the instructor’s salary.

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Student Credit Hour

Student credit hours should be reported for all courses taught by a faculty member who is budgeted to a given program, regardless of whether the course is taught in that program or elsewhere (i.e. using the “origin of instructor” method of reporting).

The student credit hours for a course can be calculated by taking the number of students enrolled in the course multiplied by the course credit (for example: 50 students enrolled in a 3-credit hour course = 150 SCH).

Course Credit: the academic student credit hour value of a course; the value recorded for a student who successfully completed the course. Typical courses have a course credit of 3; however, 1- and 4- credit courses are also common.

Student credit hours should be aggregated and reported as follows:

  1. By course level of instruction (not the level of the student registered in the course), and
  2. By the classification of the instructors (i.e., regular faculty, supplemental faculty, teaching assistant) teaching the respective courses.

To the extent possible, you should approach team-teaching/dual instructor situations by prorating student credit hours to individual faculty in an appropriate fashion. This is especially important where the faculty members in a team-teaching/dual instructor situation are budgeted to different departments. The student credit hours should follow the faculty member. Use your institutional convention in making these proration decisions.


  • SCH from Organized Class Sections must have corresponding Organized Class Section counts
  • SCH from individualized instruction are not assigned any corresponding Organized Class Section counts.


  • The student credit hours generated by a second semester senior taking an introductory graduate course would be reported in the “graduate” column. Similarly, those generated by a first semester graduate student taking an upper division level prerequisite undergraduate course would be reported in the “upper division” column.
  • A faculty member who is budgeted to the History Department, and whose teaching load includes two History courses and one Political Science course, should have all of the student credit hours generated from these three courses credited to the History Department.
  • If two faculty members (e.g., Faculty A and Faculty B) share an equal portion of the instructional responsibilities for a 3-credit course with 30 students enrolled (i.e., 90 student credit hours), 45 credit hours would be apportioned to Faculty A and 45 credit hours to Faculty B. The same allocation would hold in appropriating the organized class section to the two faculty, i.e., 0.5 section to each. Be sure to follow the “origin of instructor” method when assigning each of these portions to a program.

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ONLINE Instruction

Since 2015, The Cost Study has captured 4 data fields related to online instruction: fall undergraduate online, fall graduate online, annual undergraduate online, and annual graduate online. Each of these 4 fields should reported as subsets of the total SCH taught at each of those levels.

For the 2021 cycle, these 4 values will continue to capture the total instructional activity delivered in an online format. Online instruction is defined as SCH that are delivered in an exclusively virtual format. Courses should be classified as online only if 100% of the course instruction is taught online. You may include online courses delivered in both a synchronous and asynchronous format.

Do not include the following in the online fields:

  • Courses that began in-person and moved online part way through the semester.
  • Hybrid or blended courses where there are both elements of a traditional course that meets in-person in a fixed place at a recurring specific time but also include an online component. Student credit hours delivered in a hybrid or blended configuration should be included in the total fall semester and annual SCH counts but not included in the online SCH, which are delivered in an exclusively virtual environment.
  • Classes delivered using a massive open online course (MOOC) format. These classes typically do not fall within the domain of The Cost Study because they do not involve administrative tracking similar to courses that are included in the study.

New Optional Fields for the 2021 Cycle

In response to the massive shift to online instruction as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are introducing 4 additional optional fields beginning with the 2021 cycle of the study. These fields should be used to capture online instruction at the same 4 levels (fall UG online, fall Grad online, annual UG online, and annual Grad online); however, they will use a different definition for classifying “online” instructional activity. Activity captured for these values should only include courses that were originally scheduled to be taught online, and they would have been taught online regardless of the constraints of the pandemic.


  • The SCH counts for the new originally scheduled online fields should be less than or equal to the SCH counts for all online instruction.
  • Because of the complexities inherent in measuring these fields, they are optional; however, they will provide an additional layer of analysis for those able to provide them.

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