University of Delaware

Delaware Cost Study

UD's Higher Education Consortia improves renowned study


9:53 a.m., Sept. 20, 2013--As the new director of the University of Delaware’s Higher Education Consortia, John Barnshaw is passionate about improving colleges and universities by increasing participation in the National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity, commonly referred to as the Delaware Cost Study.

“For many higher education institutions, research and instructional costs are increasing, and that has real implications for the volume of research conducted, the quality of instruction, the price of tuition for students, and ultimately, who can afford college,” said Barnshaw about the importance of the study as a tool for understanding research expenditures and instructional costs.

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Originally developed by the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness in 1992, the Delaware Cost Study has continuously sought to address, “who is teaching what to whom, and at what cost?” The answers to those questions, in the form of cost study data, help administrators better understand their instructional costs and research expenditures, which can help identify savings as well as areas for unit and institutional improvement.

“Participating in the Delaware Cost Study enables many university administrators to have a better understanding of how they are using their resources at their institution, but that’s only one part of the equation,” said Barnshaw. “Another part of the equation is what other institutions are doing.”

For example, when considering the development of a new program, an institution can use the Delaware Cost Study data to compare the resources needed to implement the program with the resources used for similar programs at other colleges or universities. 

Institutions often try to analyze the cost of one unit against the cost of another within their own institution, according to Barnshaw. However, comparing drastically different units doesn’t always provide an accurate picture of a department’s expenditures. 

“You’re comparing an apple to an orange. A more apples-to-apples approach is to compare your psychology department to another institution’s psychology department,” he said.

Every year, the members of the Higher Education Consortia are invited to submit data from the previous fall semester and fiscal year.   

The Delaware Cost Study uses data from participating institutions — with an average of 200 institutions participating annually — to create benchmarks that administrators can use to measure their faculty teaching loads, direct institutional costs, research expenditures, and separately budgeted scholarly activity against peer institutions. 

While adhering to the original intent of gathering data to answer those questions, the Delaware Cost Study has expanded to include nearly 600 institutions since its inception and is now widely considered the premier comparative tool within higher education. 

A reputable source

While the Higher Education Consortia remains true to the original goals of the study set by President Emeritus David Roselle so long ago, this year Barnshaw will implement several features to aid member institutions. These changes include an additional set of national norms for undergraduate credit hours taught. 

In an effort to bring the Delaware Cost Study into the increasingly digital world, Barnshaw will create a series of videos to walk institutions through the various stages of the study. The first video of the series features Barnshaw extending a virtual invitation for participation this year.

Additionally, Barnshaw will implement the Higher Education Consortia Listserv, providing for the first time a forum for questions and discussion concerning instructional costs, research expenditures, and the price of tuition. 

Barnshaw is also excited to conduct a satisfaction survey.

“Through this survey, we will have the opportunity to understand how the study is used collectively and what changes we can make to improve the Delaware Cost Study moving forward,” he said. 

Highly esteemed partnership

The fact that so many institutions commonly refer to the National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity as the “Delaware Cost Study” speaks volumes about UD’s longstanding tradition of leading the study. 

“Through the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, the University of Delaware is the clearing house for this data and it has become the tool of choice for national comparative cost benchmarking,” said Barnshaw of the Delaware Cost Study. “We are honored to have the cost study associated with UD, and we hope that we can enhance the esteem of the University of Delaware and the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness among our institutional participants.”

For more information, contact John Barnshaw at

Article by Kelley Bregenzer

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