LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Teaching two or fewer classes a semester has become the rule rather than the exception at UNLV.
An analysis of the fall 2002 semester workload at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found more than half of full-time instructors failed to teach three classes per semester.
University officials have cited a three-course requirement in arguing against professors increasing their teaching load, despite a state budget deficit and the possibility of tax increases.
Last August, with Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn calling for 3 percent budget cuts, UNLV President Carol Harter and UNLV chief academic officer Ray Alden said professors could not be pressed teach more classes.
"Remember, the course load here is three and three" classes for the two semesters, said Harter, dismissing lower figures as rumors. "In major research universities, it's often two and two, or one and two. Ours is still three and three with ... a reduction on a case-by-case basis."
Harter said a professor might be granted a one-class reduction to finish publishing a book or write a key grant proposal.
In a February report to the Nevada Legislature, the university said full-time instructional faculty last fall taught an average of 3.7 courses, with 67 percent teaching at least three classes.
And 687 professors were credited with logging an average of 7.9 "classroom contact" hours a week with students. An instructor teaching a typical three-credit class spends 2.5 hours a week teaching in the classroom.
"On average, across all departments and all faculty, the credit hour expectation is 9 credits per semester," the report said, or three classes per semester.
However, the analysis by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that only 45 percent of eligible full-time faculty met the requirement.
The newspaper analysis excluded more than 100 full-time law and dental school faculty, and those whom the university said were on leave, given administrative roles or assigned other duties.
The university has 800 full-time professors and 25,000 students.
University officials disputed the analysis, saying that responsibilities other than teaching classes should count toward a professor's class load and that heavier class loads would hamper UNLV from becoming a premier research institution.
Craig Walton, director of the UNLV Ethics & Policy Studies master's program, said strict enforcement of the three-classes-per-semester rule would be a mistake.
"You'd be telling all of the best (professors) to get the hell out of town, because that's what they'd do," said Walton, who chooses to teach three classes a semester. "It'd be self-defeating."
Some lawmakers and members of the Nevada Board of Regents weren't convinced.
"UNLV officials are very careful in presenting only that they are worked far harder than university employees anywhere else in America," said Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, a critic of university system spending and of Guinn's plan to increase taxes $1 billion over two years.
"That they are actually only working approximately half as hard as their target is a surprise," Beers said.
A Department of Education National Center for Education index indicates that UNLV's class load is typical. It found full-time professors at four-year schools granting doctoral degrees teach an average of 2.1 classes a semester.
The standard is 3.1 classes a semester for nondoctoral universities. Those national averages are based on 1998 data, the latest available in the 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty.
Some students said they're getting shortchanged.
Renae Judkins, a 21-year-old communications major, said UNLV should offer more upper-division classes taught by full-time faculty so students could get a bachelor's degree in four or five years.
The slow pace of earning four-year degrees in Nevada earned the state failing grades for degree completion in 2000 and 2002 in the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education's "Measuring Up" report.
In late March, the university provided computer data on the workloads of individual professors to the newspaper, which used that data, plus catalogs, courses, seminars and clinics listed in the fall 2002 schedule, and Internet or distance education classes.
Alden recently revised his statements about class load to say the majority of professors teach three classes or the "equivalent of three classes."
Alden and Harter said recently that in the report to lawmakers, they included professors' work with interns and independent study students, as well as their work on doctoral dissertations, master's theses and research projects. However, the report did not define class that way.
"I don't understand how you cannot count all of that," Harter said. "That is teaching students."
Regent Steve Sisolak disagreed.
"Usually you use the term 'class' when you have a group of students that meets. ... whether that's 10, 20 or 100," he said. "If you have one or two people in an independent study, that's not even close to being a class."
The University and Community College System of Nevada applies varying teaching-load standards to different departments, depending on the demand for graduate programs.
Full-time faculty in departments with small or no graduate programs are expected to teach six courses per year; those in departments with growing graduate programs are expected to teach five courses per year; and professors in departments with large graduate programs are expected to teach four courses per year.
Campuswide, nearly 100 professors taught just one class in fall 2002, UNLV data shows. Some listed reasons for reductions, others did not.
Besides teaching classes, full-time professors are expected to conduct research, to publish scholarly articles, to help govern the university and to keep office hours for meetings with students outside the classroom.
The average base salary for a full professor is $94,000. An associate professor on average earns $71,000 and an assistant professor $56,000.
Part-time instructors receive a fraction of a full-time professor's pay but don't have the same non-classroom responsibilities. For $2,100 a class, they taught 48 percent of undergraduate classes at UNLV last fall, according to the workload study. They also taught 11 percent of the graduate courses offered.