Female Faculty, Tenure, and Student Graduation Success: Efficiency Implications for University Funding

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Renewed interest in reforming the funding mechanisms of U.S. public colleges and universities has focused on holding institutions accountable for the academic success of students. Public concern over low graduation rates has stimulated political interest in tying taxpayer financing to university baccalaureate degree completions. Other studies indicate that improvements in student academic success follow from increases in the proportion of female faculty employment. Thus, female faculty could affect the future of university funding. In this paper, stochastic frontier analysis is employed to investigate the potential efficiency gains associated with female faculty employment in producing university student graduation rates. A panel data specification using 199 U.S. publicly owned universities is based on an inefficiency component comprised of percentages of females employed according to different tenure statuses. Results suggest that increased female employment in tenure track positions offer efficiency gains for improving graduation rates. The findings hold for both men and women students. Increases in proportions of tenured females could produce opposing effects, while non-tenure track appointments have unbalanced effects for men compared to women students. The absence of age and student-faculty course specific data suggests caution in the interpretation of the latter results. However, the main findings should be of value to both public policy makers and university administrators.