Gettysburg College Spends Less on Instruction than Peers

By Carter Hanson, Katie Oglesby & Benjamin Pontz

Gettysburg College spends less per student on instruction than any of its closest peer institutions, an analysis based on data from The Chronicle of Higher Education conducted by The Gettysburgian shows. Annual tuition (excluding room and board) for the 2016-17 academic year, the year for which The Chronicle compiled a comprehensive data set, was $50,860. 

That year, the college spent $18,627 per student on instruction, which represents 37 percent of tuition. With 2,573 students and a total of $55,183,766 in financial aid awarded by the college that academic year, an average of $21,447 per student (though not all students receive financial aid), instruction and financial aid together account for 79 percent of annual tuition.

Percentage of Tuition Spent on Instruction (2016-17) (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Percentage of Tuition Spent on Instruction (2016-17) (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

While not all colleges publicly release data that would allow for accounting the second figure, Gettysburg ranks third-lowest among its peers raw per student spending on instruction and lowest for percentage of tuition spent on instruction.

Instruction spending encompasses “wages and benefits to faculty and staff members who teach students at the institution.” A separate category—academic support—includes “expenses for support services for the college’s primary mission and includes spending on libraries, museums, galleries, audiovisual services, academic development, academic computing support, course and curriculum development, and academic administration.”

As a gross figure, Gettysburg spends significantly more than its closest peer institutions on academic support, and, on a per student basis, it spends more than all but one of its closest peers. Additionally, the sum of instruction and academic support spending is higher than many of the college’s peer institutions.

2016-17 Instruction Spending per Student (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

2016-17 Instruction Spending per Student (Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Jamie Yates, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing for Gettysburg College, said that the latter calculation is the best reflection of value to students. Splitting the two, she argued, sets up apples-to-oranges comparisons.

“The designation of academic support versus instruction spending is an accounting differentiation,” Yates said. “In practice, we prefer to look at the overall academic program as a whole rather than letting accounting standards dictate the allocation of resources.”

She did, however, point to a definition from the National Association of College and University Business financial accounting and reporting manual to differentiate between the two, and she did not explain how Gettysburg’s calculations might differ from how other institutions distinguish between the types of spending. She did note, however, that, together, the two categories of spending comprised 58 percent of the college’s total expenses during fiscal year 2017.

2016-17 Academic Support Spending per Student (Source: College financial statements)

2016-17 Academic Support Spending per Student (Source: College financial statements)

A 2016 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Economic Inquiry, though, found that spending on instruction improves student employment outcomes significantly more than academic support.

“Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds appear to gain the most from instructional spending at schools,” the paper added. “Academic support spending benefits those from high-income households.”

Additionally, in terms of helping students to find jobs that match what they studied, academic support was negatively correlated.

“Across almost all groups,” the paper wrote, “graduates from schools who spend more on academic support services are less likely to be in a job that matches their field of study.” 

Sum of Instruction and Academic Support per Student (2016-17) (Source: College financial statements & The Chronicle)

Sum of Instruction and Academic Support per Student (2016-17) (Source: College financial statements & The Chronicle)

In an interview with Inside Higher Education published while the paper was under peer review, Adrianna Kezar, Director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California, said that colleges “have built a gigantic infrastructure of student support outside the classroom without examining what is actually most important,” adding that “student support is best contained in classroom [sic].”

Yates defended academic support spending, noting that it “includes important areas as Academic Advising, the Library, Academic Computing Services, and Academic Personnel Development.”

Even so, Gettysburg faculty salaries rank in the bottom half in comparison to the college’s peer institutions according to data from the American Association of University Professors Faculty Compensation Survey. At the full professor level, only Lawrence University ranks lower than Gettysburg, while, at the associate and assistant professor levels, Gettysburg ranks fourth of seven. Given that student to faculty ratios at each institution are similar (between 8:1 and 10:1), Gettysburg still appears to fare poorly relative to peer institutions in terms of spending per student on faculty salaries.

2016-17 Faculty Salaries: Gettysburg & Like Peer Institutions (Source: AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey)

2016-17 Faculty Salaries: Gettysburg & Like Peer Institutions (Source: AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey)

The college continues to assess how best to deploy financial resources. In an email to college staff sent at the beginning of the academic year, President Robert Iuliano and Provost Christopher Zappe said that, as the financial landscape continues to evolve, the college will need to work to balance a range of competing priorities.

“[W]e asked many across campus to examine their department and divisional budgets and to identify ways to take fullest advantage of their resources,” they said. “This work is difficult, but it is an underlying responsibility we share as stewards of this institution.”

This article originally appeared on pages 10-11 of the October 31, 2019 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

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Author: Carter Hanson

Carter Hanson '23 is a political science student at Gettysburg College from Boulder, Colorado. He is a staff writer for the Gettysburgian, hosts the Pensive Anchor on 91.1 WZBT Gettysburg, is participating in the Contours of the Middle East Eisenhower Institute Program, and is involved in Fourscores Acapella and Concert Choir.

Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. My reading comprehension skills are not what they used to be, buy the second paragraph in this article states that instruction and financial aid comprises 79% of tuition.

    Do you mean to imply that some money that non-financial aid students pay for tuition goes for the financial aid of students who do receive aid?

    Post a Reply
    • That’s certainly one way of looking at it. Basically, the 79% figure merely states that, of the college’s total budget, 79% is spent on instruction and financial aid such that, insofar as all the money is in the same pot, 79% of tuition is spent on those two items. Tuition is, by far, the largest source of the college’s revenue, so, given the expenditures on financial aid, it stands to reason that some financial aid is paid for out of tuition.

      Post a Reply
      • Ben-

        Thanks for your reply.

        Regarding my earlier email, some typos–buy and comprise.

        Financial aid, as I understand it, consists of loans, grants, and scholarships. Financial aid offices award loans first. Grants next, then scholarships. My understanding has always been that grant money comes from alumni gifts to the College which is put into the College Endowment Fund. G-burg’s current Endowment Fund, according to the net, is $324 Million. It is my understanding that grant money comes from interest and principal of the Endowment Fund.


        Paragraph two of your article implies that $24,771 on comes out of TUITION expense for financial aid. That means that parents paying the full freight for their offspring to attend G-burg would have $24,771 of their hard-earned money going to pay for someone else’s kid. If that were the case, there would be an insurrection.

        One of us is confused.


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