Student To Teacher Ratio Explained

Is a low student-to-teacher ratio beneficial? How do you choose an optimal classroom experience? Learn about student-to-faculty ratio, its perks, and more

Updated by Ipsita Meher on 27th October 2020

What do you understand by the 'student-to-teacher ratio'?

Well, the student-to-teacher ratio is a calculated ratio of the number of students (in an education institution) per full-time teachers. For example, let’s say in a university student-to-teacher ratio is 35:1. This implies for every 35 students, one teacher is allotted. Similarly, if the student-to-faculty ratio is 20:1, then it means under one faculty, a maximum of 20 students gets assigned. The national average student-to-faculty ratio in colleges is found to be 18:1. 

But if you dig a little deep then a student-to-faculty ratio can provide in-depth intel about the college and its functionality.

Usually, colleges or universities having a large number of students intake will have a higher student-to-faculty ratio and colleges with fewer students intake will have a lower student-to-faculty ratio. For example, Princeton University has an intake of 5,422 students, with approximately 950 faculty members. So the student-to-faculty ratio is less (6:1 approximately). Bakersfield College has a high student-to-faculty ratio (32:1) as its intake is high as 22,000 students. They have large classes. So, one should pay attention to the student-to-faculty ratio while applying for colleges. 

For many students, it is a dilemma to understand how much importance does the pupil-teacher ratio carry in deciding the school. But yes it is an important factor to consider. 

Note - The terms 'student-to-teacher', 'student-to-faculty', and 'pupil-to-teacher' can be used interchangeably

But what else can you infer from the student-to-faculty ratio, let’s discuss further.

Individual Attention and Personal Guidance

Students receive a lot of individual attention and a lot of one-to-one interaction between students and professors takes place if the faculty-to-student ratio is low. Your professors are more available to you. You don't have to wait for a long time to meet your professor and clear your doubts outside class. You can also ask for help and guidance in your assignments and projects. 

In terms of size of the class

In general, by looking at the student-to-faculty ratio you can have an understanding of what could be the class size of a particular university or college. A lower ratio means smaller classes, and a larger ratio means large classes. 

Smaller classes will give you more opportunities to participate in class discussions and ask questions. You can know your classmates better and develop a good understanding or rapport with each other. Similarly larger classes might not give you that flexibility but eventually, you will learn to deal with the crowd. 

According to the U.S. News, an institute having 2000 or less student intake has a lower student-to-faculty ratio and smaller classrooms. Some people find it very comforting and welcoming as you don't feel lost in a large crowd or anonymous on your own college campus. Everybody knows everybody. 

In terms of public and private colleges

Since the private colleges are the elite ones and exclusive, their student-to-faculty ratio is quite low. Many private colleges do their marketing on this basis, saying students will get a lot of individual attention and one-to-one interaction with their faculty. But in the case of public universities, it is usually seen that the student-to-faculty ratio is quite high as their student's intake is high. 

Connections with students and professors

The faculty-to-student ratio generally entails the odds of connecting with the members of the class. Having a good network with peers, classmates, and professors will help you a lot in your professional and academic career. Many professors recommend good and talented students for various seminars, corporate events and jobs, and more. When the ratio is high you get a feeling of uncertainty and sometimes you also feel lost. But when there are few people around you, you feel like a large fish in a small pond. You feel you have some importance over there. 

Level of Competition

You feel a greater sense of competitiveness when the number of students is high and the student-to-faculty ratio is high. Sometimes it is good as well as you get to understand how tough it is to compete at a high scale and prove yourself. In smaller schools, of course, the competition is less and you feel less competitive. 

Level of Participation

If the ratio is less you get more opportunities to participate in different events, in different extracurriculars, class discussions, and a lot more. This helps you to build your confidence and develop your leadership skills. But when there are a large number of students along with you, you hardly get a chance to get 'picked up' from the crowd. Though it is tough with hundreds of students to make a difference and stand out it is not impossible if one tries to do so.

Low Student-to-Teacher Ratio - A Boon or Bane?

This question is entirely dependent on the student, and what kind of environment they prefer. Some students want to attend a college with a huge student body, others thrive in smaller classes.

Well, to some extent a low student-to-faculty ratio can be a boon. But this cannot be generalized. Lower ratios are not every student’s preference. Many times the answer is wholly dependent on the student’s view and perception of an ideal school. It depends on what kind of environment a student prefers. Some people do well in large settings whereas some thrive in smaller classes. 

Private schools will often tell you that they have a low student-to-faculty ratio, personalized training, one-to-one interaction, and a lot more. But this doesn’t mean that schools with higher ratios don’t have personalized interactions between teachers and students. Even in large colleges and university professors do welcome students to have interaction and also help them in projects and assignments. 

Your primary prerogative should be your priority list (personal, and professional) while evaluating a school on its student-to-teacher ratio.

Schools with a good student-to-faculty ratio

A good student-to-faculty ratio is subjective to perception. Years of experimentation and surveys have deduced a ratio of (at least) 18:1 or above as an ‘ideal’ student-to-faculty ratio.  As mentioned, a low student-to-faculty has a plethora of benefits and is often a selling point for most private institutions. Here is the list of a few universities and colleges which are well known for an optimal student-to-faculty ratio. Their student-to-faculty ratio ranges from 3:1 to 20:1 which is considered to be quite a decent ratio while judging the quality of the college. So let’s have a look here:

Colleges

Students-to-faculty ratio

Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary

              3:1

International Baptist College and Seminary

              4:1

Shasta Bible College and Graduate School

              5:1

Maine College of Health Professions

              5:1

Midwives College of Utah

              5:1 

Virginia Baptist College

              5:1

Holy Apostles College and Seminary

              6:1

Yale University 

              6:1

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods 

              6:1

Southeastern Baptist College

              6:1

A comprehensive study by U.S News reports on the student-to-faculty ratio for various universities, and liberal colleges in the U.S. As many as 222 liberal arts colleges are known for a low student-to-faculty ratio, bringing in the perks of personalized education. An average of 11:1 ratio was maintained by these educational institutions, with International Baptist College and Seminary holding a student-to-faculty ratio of as low as 4:1. In the case of national universities, a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1 is maintained as a precursor for an optimal educational experience. Princeton University has a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1 with a maximum of 20 members in 70% of the classes. 

Best Classroom Experience

While making a decision, you must look at your own personal priorities, choices, preferences, and academic history. Always schools with lower students-to-faculty ratio advertise themselves as best. But public colleges and universities with large student intakes have also showcased that a student can thrive in such an academic environment as well. In fact, sometimes they provide such opportunities that colleges with small intakes cannot provide such exposure and opportunities. 

At the end of the day, the final decision is in your hands. Retrospect, introspect and understand what shelters your interests. It’s a personalized decision. What might sail our boat, might sink yours!

Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself before making a decision - 

  • Does it matter for you on a personal level if you get enough opportunities to have one-to-one interaction with your professor?

  • Do you thrive in a small set up?

  • Do you value rigorous meaningful discussions with a small set of people?

  • Do you enjoy studying with a lot of people in the class?

  • Do you like competing with a large set of people and proving your ability in front of others?

  • How do campus resources add to your growth?

Well, these are a few questions which will help you to understand what kind of environment you want for yourself, and the concept of student-to-faculty ratio, how much does it matter to you. Do you prefer a low student-to-faculty ratio or a high student-to-faculty ratio?

Conclusion

It simply depends on the student that what kind of setup is best for you. There are a lot of alternatives but it is you to decide what you want for yourself. But yes, the student-to-faculty ratio is one of the important factors to gauge a college or university but not everything.