Is it possible to determine what percentage of a tenure track/tenured professor's salary is paid for by tuition? At my UK university, our school budget includes income from student fees (we only get a portion of the fees each student pays), grants, and central university funds (presumably some of this is indirectly from student fees). I am curious if a calculation could be made for STEM departments at US R1 type universities. Presumably some of this information may be available for state schools.

I think the answer I am looking for would be something along the lines of the ratio of the total amount of tuition fees (hopefully divided up into undergraduate and graduate fees) given to the department divided by the total costs of teaching (again, ideally divided up into undergraduate and graduate costs). In other words if a department gets $500,000 from tuition fees and the teaching costs are $1,000,000, then 50% of the teaching costs are paid for by tuition. Teaching costs would have to include space charges, IT charges, printing charges, and the cost of staff time. These all seem to be known, well defined, quantities. An exact estimate of the cost of staff time would require going through each member of staff and prorating the salary by the percentage of time allocated for teaching (e.g., 0% for someone who has bought out his teaching and maybe 40% for someone who has not). Presumably, someone in the university/department has access to these numbers.

This is only a guess as to what an answer will include, but if there is a different (more general) way of getting to the answer, that is fine too.

  • 4
    Is the question here just what percentage of the school budget comes from tuition, or are you expecting info of the type "Prof. A is paid to 15% from tuition, while it is 25% for Prof. B"? In the latter case, I am not sure how you would establish this.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 11, 2015 at 16:33
  • 11
    There is also the issue that at least in the US, some percentage of (grad student) tuition seems to be basically imaginary money, where a university pays a nominal stipend and partially keeps it in as tuition.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 11, 2015 at 16:35
  • @xLeitix I am not sure how to calculate it. I don't think percentage of the total school budget is enough info. I think the answer needs to focus on the amount of time the average academic is allocated for teaching (e.g., some people might be at 60% time and other might be at 20%, or even 0%, time), the average academic salary and the amount of money from tuition.
    – StrongBad
    Jan 11, 2015 at 16:43
  • 2
    In that case I am looking forward to the answers, but I am not getting my hopes up just yet :) basically, I think the only professors where one can really say where the money comes from are Sponsored Chairs.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 11, 2015 at 16:45
  • 1
    If I'm understanding correctly what an R1 university is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_I_university , then it would encompass a huge variety of schools. Students at state schools usually pay a lot less tuition than students at private schools, and it also varies from state to state. Private schools also vary enormously, e.g., Princeton is about the same as many state schools.
    – user1482
    Jan 12, 2015 at 0:00

6 Answers 6


I think that you'll never be able to sort this out. Most universities cross-subsidize departments to the point that even individual departments don't know how much of their own faculty lines come from the tuition of students majoring in that subject vs. tuition from other departments' students. Does the English department fully fund itself through the fees students pay for English classes? I doubt it. State funding, though a diminishing portion of most state universities' budgets, picks up some fraction of the costs.

Also, departments see level funding in the face of modest fluctuations in class enrollments. If 45 students took Calculus I last fall and 52 sign up this fall, the department doesn't see increased revenue for that. The department has a number of faculty lines coming from the dean's office to teach the projected enrollment. If that spikes or drops off substantially such that more instructors are required, then the department has to negotiate more or fewer lines with their dean.

That being said, I think that most departments negotiate expected breakdowns in effort with the faculty they hire. Of a typical 9 month appointment, a faculty member might be expected to do 35% teaching, 35% service, and 30% research (or whatever), and that might be the expectation regardless of whether the teaching load is a 1-1, 2-1, or 2-2. Where, again, it's entirely unclear whether that 35% teaching is completely funded by tuition or partly funded by tuition, central endowment, and/or a local named chair.

  • 18
    tl;dr: Money is fungible.
    – JeffE
    Jan 12, 2015 at 2:17
  • 4
    I don't always appreciate your snark @JeffE, but when I do I LOL.
    – Bill Barth
    Jan 12, 2015 at 3:05
  • 3
    "whether the teaching load is a 1-1, 2-1, or 2-2", or 2-3, or 3-3, or 3-4, or 4-4, or 5-4 or . . . . n-m, where n and m are both too damn high.
    – user10636
    Sep 12, 2015 at 0:45
  • 1
    Importantly, the percentage can also be 0% for 100% soft money positions.
    – Fomite
    Sep 12, 2015 at 20:42
  • Seems unlikely that a professor would be paid 0% on tuition dollars and be carrying a teaching load, but I can't speak to academic department budgeting.
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 12, 2015 at 20:57

To the best of my knowledge, my university salary is paid out of what the university calls the "general fund". That fund includes the money the university gets from tuition, the money it gets from the state (except possibly for state money earmarked for specific projects, like a new building), and I think also the indirect cost funds from research grants (and maybe other income sources too). Once that money is in the general fund, it gets completely mixed together, regardless of source. And I get the same salary, entirely from that fund, whether I'm teaching my normal course load or whether part of my time is devoted to administrative duties, or whether I'm on sabbatical. So, as far as I can tell, the proportion of my salary that comes from tuition is just the proportion of the general fund that comes from tuition; no finer analysis is possible. (Unfortunately, I don't know what proportion of the general fund comes from tuition, but, since the University of Michigan is a public institution, that information is undoubtedly publicly available somewhere.) [Edit: Deleted the sentence about "25% quite some years ago but not from an authoritative source". That 25% was for state support, which has probably decreased since then. Tuition is probably a much larger share of the general fund.]

  • 1
    As a (slightly fuzzy) data point, someone told me a year or two ago that at UIC (another large public institution), about 80% of the general fund was provided by tuition. That seems to be in the same ballpark as what you are suggesting (maybe slightly higher). Jan 12, 2015 at 10:10

I agree with Bill's answer, but also want to contribute a few more points:

  • In many other European countries, students pay no tuition, and thus there can be no contribution.
  • Faculty in the US can be paid according to either a 9-month or 12-month salary scheme. When they're paid for nine months per year, they are expected to raise their remaining salary through external grants. Then you have to ask the question of which salary you're referring to in your calculations.
  • Salary differs widely among faculty members at differing levels of pay.
  • Graduate tuition is often an internal accounting device, as graduate students themselves (and particularly PhD students) are rarely expected to cover their own tuition costs.
  • Great points! I'd say that grad students in the US do receive tuition bills, but many, if not most, of them have benefits directly applied or are given grants/stipends/etc to cover them.
    – Bill Barth
    Jan 11, 2015 at 23:41

Another wrinkle: different pots of money for different delivery modalities. Where I am, online courses are paid for VERY differently from face-to-face ones. General-fund money pretty much can't be used for online courses, so a much higher percentage of instructor salary for those comes from tuition.

Of course, the mix of online and face-to-face courses for any given instructor varies from semester to semester, so... have fun with that math, I suppose.

Yet another wrinkle: grant funding, for instructors who also pursue research grants. Grants don't last forever, but they may "buy out" one or more classes for a given instructor for a while (at which point less of their salary is from tuition).


The average annual total compensation of a lecturer at a public baccalaureate US institution in 2014-15 is $76,893 ($54,223 for salary only) according to higheredjobs.com. You can look on the chronicle, glassdoor, etc. for average information about the type of faculty your interested in at your institution.

"The average published tuition and fee price for in-state students enrolled full time at public four-year colleges and universities is $9,139 in 2014-15" collegeboard.org. I am sure you can find the tuition at the institution you are interested in. A typical full time student takes 15 credits per semester or 30 credits a year.

Now class sizes are all over (typically from 10 to 200 for intro courses), which is what you would want to know if you are talking about your professor that is teaching your class. However, if you are interested in the total amount of faculty including those that do not teach (research faculty or graduate faculty that do not teach undergrad courses) you will want to look at the student-to-faculty ratio (typically 12:1 to 20:1). For this purpose lets suppose you are interested in a course that has enrolled 20 and the faculty member that is teaching that course (or in general all faculty at an institution with a student-to-faculty ratio of 20:1).

Now we have to consider the teaching load of the faculty member of interest. These can range from 1-0 (tenure track at a research institution) to 4-4 (full time teaching faculty) depending on position (see higheredprofessor.com, I can only post 2 links). Let's assume you are talking about the ever increasingly prevalent full time teaching faculty, which would mean 24 credit hours annually ((4+4)X3) for the typical 3 credit hour course.

Now it is simple math:

$9,139 student tuition / 30 credit hours X 20 students / faculty X 24 credit hours/ $76,893 faculty salary = ~2

This means that income from student tuition is twice that of what the total compensation to faculty are paid or that half of a tuition dollar goes to pay for the faculty that teach the course. This of course is often much worse, where non-tenure adjunct or part-time faculty are paid less to teach larger classes that may have a lot of students paying higher rates for out-of-state tuition. But to answer the question about salary only, lets look at an instructor's salary at master's institution to teach this load with an average class size of 200 students paying out of state tuition:

$22,958 student tuition / 30 credit hours X 200 students / faculty X 24 credit hours/ $46,878 faculty salary = ~78

or about 1 cent of a tuition dollar goes to pay for instructor's salary. This is more of the trend of how things are going as tuition and class sizes increase and higher paying tenure track jobs are replaced with low paying benefits ineligible part-time non-tenure instructor jobs.

  • 2
    The question asks what percent of faculty salary comes from tuition. Your calculations are about what percent of tuition goes to faculty salary, which is not the same thing at all. (Your calculations seem to assume 100% of faculty salary comes from tuition.)
    – ff524
    Sep 11, 2015 at 22:37

While you're not going to get department- or professor-specific breakdowns, there are reports that show proportions for public colleges as a whole. Unfortunately charts in articles below (sourced from GAO and State Higher Education Executive Officers, respectively) for public college funding don't totally synch up (one says 25% funding from tuition, the other 47% in 2012), but all agree that tuition as a percent of total revenue has markedly increased in recent years.

  • Presumably some of that tuition goes to other things besides teaching (e.g., salaries for the football coach and university president). I want to know about the money that goes into and out of a department.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 12, 2016 at 17:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .