The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search.
College students: Don’t expect to always see a professor standing at the front of your classroom.
At some research universities, a teaching assistant — usually a graduate student — might either serve as the main instructor for an undergraduate course or provide support to the professor. There were 121,120 graduate teaching assistants employed at colleges, universities and professional schools in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Though some students prefer to learn from an experienced professor rather than a TA with little experience, one 2016 study found undergraduates are more likely to major in a discipline if a graduate student teaches their first course in the subject.
[Explore the best schools that focus on undergraduate teaching.]
Among the 697 ranked colleges that submitted these data to U.S. News in an annual survey, Purdue University–West Lafayette in Indiana reported the highest percentage of graduate TAs who were listed as a primary instructor for undergraduate courses in fall 2015: 26 percent.
Among Regional Universities, which offer many undergraduate programs and some master’s but few doctoral programs, Emporia State University in Kansas reported the highest percentage of TAs who taught classes in fall 2015, at 13 percent.
Overall, mainly National Universities and Regional Universities reported having TAs who teach classes — only two National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, reported that TAs teach any courses, both at 2 percent. That’s because many have low student-faculty ratios, so TAs aren’t as necessary.
[Discover how colleges help liberal arts students find careers.]
Of all the schools that reported these data to U.S. News, 544 listed zero percent.
Below are the 10 National Universities with the highest percentage of graduate TAs listed as primary instructors for undergraduate courses in fall 2015. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find teaching assistant statistics, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2016 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The teaching assistant data above are correct as of Feb. 21, 2017.