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Downtime Costing

Professor D, an accounting instructor at Husky U, is a big proponent of the active learning mode of instruction. He has observed that a significant fraction of class time is spent waiting for students to answer questions. He wonders about the cost to students and to society of such “downtime” and, more broadly about the costs and benefits of the discovery learning approach. (He is not concerned about the cost of such downtime to him personally.)
Being somewhat conversant with web-browsing, he quickly collects the following “average” figures:

Class duration and size. Each class period lasts 2 hours and meets 20 times (thus each class is equal to 40 hours of instruction time). The average class size in Accounting is 34 students per class.

Student workload. For each hour of class, students must spend about 2 hours (and quite often, for advanced topics, more) on out of class preparation and for each class meeting, they must spend an hour commuting to and from campus, parking, getting to class etc. In addition, group work requires students to spend significant time on preparing a major term paper/presentation. Since this is a choice variable over which students have complete control and students differ greatly in the effort they supply, Professor D feels he cannot reasonably estimate an average time per student. However he feels that, at least to a reasonable first approximation, any time spent in project work costs the student the same amount as any other education-related activity.

Student costs Each full time student pays annual tuition of $15,000. Each full time student’s out of pocket monthly living costs are $1,000 and that student forgoes about $20,000 of incremental income. (This is computed as $10 per hour times an assumed work schedule of 2000 hours per year. Students who are working are assumed to also forgo $10 per hour for each hour of education-related activity.)
Other Costs Government subsidies per full time student are about $9,000 per year.

Social Cost The cost to society is the value of the goods and services that the student or others would have produced if the student did not pursue an education.

Faculty compensation. The full-time faculty of the University include both Professors and Lecturers. Professors of Accounting are paid an average base salary of $170,000 per annum plus research support enhancement of 15% of annual salary. Lecturers of Accounting are paid on average about half the base salary of Professors and usually get no research support. The University contributes to a defined contribution retirement fund (6% of total salary, i.e., base plus any research support enhancement) and offers a heavily-subsidized health care plan to all full time faculty (both tenure track and non-tenure track).
The cost of the health plan is about $10,000 per year per faculty member. The University also hires a number of part time faculty to teach individual classes at about $6000 per class. Part time faculty usually teach a flexible number of classes, so for accounting purposes, every nine classes taught by part time faculty members are treated as one FTE (full time equivalent) Instructor.

Faculty workload. Professors teach five classes a year, Lecturers teach between six to nine classes and FTE Instructors teach nine classes a year.

Faculty mix. The ratio of Professors to Lecturers to Instructors is 6:3:1.
Your tasks Professor D is unsure how he should organize these numbers to get any insights into his decision problem. He has asked you to help him by answering the following questions.

For each question, he would like you to provide a brief conceptual explanation of how you computed the number and to show the key relevant computations as well so that he can follow your logic.
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In addition, should the space provided be inadequate to provide a full set of supporting computations, he is happy to also look at any additional analyses you may want to attach. In that case, you can present the analyses on additional pages in the section below entitled ADDITIONAL WORK. ALTERNATIVELY, should it be more convenient for you to attach an Excel spreadsheet showing your computations (together with a full set of explanations where necessary). If you submit a spreadsheet, name it lastname_firstname_Midterm1 and upload it here (this is not the same drop box as the main exam).



Question 1. (4 points)

Assume that a full time student takes ten such courses over a single academic year, i.e., each full time student “produces” 400 hours of class time per year. Compute the cost per hour to the student of spending one hour in class. (Reminder: Provide all relevant details of key computations.)

Question 2. (4 points)

What is the cost to Husky U of producing one hour of instruction by a Professor? (Reminder: Do not forget to lay out all your key computations.)

Question 3. (4 points)

What is the cost to Husky U of producing one hour of instruction by a Lecturer? (Reminder: Do not forget to lay out all your key computations.)


Question 4. (4 points)
What is the cost to Husky U of producing one hour of instruction by an Instructor? (Reminder: Do not forget to lay out all your key computations.)


Question 5. (4 points)

What is the average cost to Husky U of producing one hour of instruction using its current labor mix? (Reminder: Do not forget to lay out all your key computations.)

Question 6. (4 points)

What is the cost to society of producing one hour of class time? What assumptions did you make about the value of faculty time? (Reminder: Do not forget to lay out all your key computations.)

Question 7. (4 points)

What is the cost imposed on other students if dealing with an unprepared student wastes five minutes of class time? (Reminder: Lay out all your key computations.)

Question 8. (4 points)

What is the cost imposed on society if dealing with an unprepared student wastes five minutes of class time? (Reminder: Lay out all your key computations.)


Question 9. (4 points)

Why do you think the cost per hour of instruction at Universities varies so widely across Professors, Lecturers and Instructors? (Think back to root cause of why each rank of labor costs what it does, do not repeat or reiterate the computations you used to get the numbers!)


Question 10. (4 points)

Suppose you are the President of Husky U. Given the costs of “downtime” you have computed, which rank of faculty would you entrust with teaching more “discovery-intensive courses?” Which rank of faculty would you entrust with teaching “more computation-intensive courses.” Why?


Question 11.

Bonus question, worth up to 5 extra points depending on the thoughtfulness and comprehensiveness of the answer.

What does your analysis of the costs of producing a unit of instruction time at Husky U teach you about the value of cost analysis?

Hint: Reflect on the answer you gave. Look at the picture from multiple points of view: an individual student, the student body, the University, society, others we have not named, e.g., employers, anyone who uses education as a “signal” of intellectual capability.

Your answer, while being brief, should speak to the key themes of the discipline of cost accounting

• How does your analysis “shed light” i.e., help us better understand the proverbial “big picture” as it relates to University instruction?

• How does your analysis “support decision-making”, i.e., suggest potential action paths for how the University might choose to organize production?

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