White male professor with beard calling on diverse students with raised hands

What's a Student-Faculty Ratio and Why Does It Matter?

You'll read a lot about student-faculty ratios during your college search, but do they even matter? Find out what it means and why you should care here!

As you research colleges, you’ll discover that most schools include “student-faculty ratio” in their statistics. You may be wondering what that is, what it means, and why it matters. Here’s what you should know about student-faculty ratios and why you may want to pay attention to this figure during your college search.

What is a student-faculty ratio?

A student-faculty ratio is exactly what it sounds like: a ratio of how many students there are at a school for every one faculty member. Every college is going to have a different ratio, but you’ll find that the major difference is between large schools and small schools: smaller schools will have a smaller ratio than larger schools. For example, Brandeis University has an undergraduate population of about 4,000 students and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio. This means there are about 400 faculty members on campus. On the other hand, the University of Texas at Austin has around 37,000 undergraduate students and a 19:1 student-faculty ratio. This equals just under 1,950 faculty members to help those students. 

Related: Comparing Public Colleges: Big vs. Small Schools 

Low vs. high student-faculty ratios

A college may promote its student-faculty ratio to prospective students, especially if it’s in the single digits. But this number ratio can be more or less important depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your college experience. Lower student-faculty ratios usually mean smaller class sizes. If you want to develop close relationships with your professors and conduct research with them, you should look for schools with low student-faculty ratios. A lower number also means you’ll have increased opportunities for support should the need arise. Because there are fewer students, faculty members will know you better, be more available, and will likely offer you the support you need, whenever you need it. If opportunities like these are important to you, student-faculty ratio will likely be much more important in your search.

If you’re planning to use college as a means of making new friends and connections and are more focused on the experiences you can have outside the classroom, student-faculty ratio may not be as important to you. A school with a higher ratio provides some reassurance that there will be plenty of students to meet and spend time with. You may also prefer to be just a face in the crowd in class and on campus. If so, look for schools with high student-faculty ratios. You can still make great connections with faculty members—you’ll just have more students to compete with over office hours.

Should I care about this number?

Ultimately, student-faculty ratio is only as important as you think it is. If conducting research with professors and forming relationships with other faculty members is something you desire, then a low student-faculty ratio is something you’ll want to look out for. If you’re more interested in having larger classes and lots of new people to meet (or more anonymity), a high student-faculty ratio will probably be a better option for you. When looking for colleges, you should keep in mind that smaller schools will almost always have a smaller ratio than larger schools. 

Related: Video: Advantages and Disadvantages of Small Schools 

One last important thing to keep in mind when looking at student-faculty ratios: a low or high ratio is not necessarily indicative of the number of opportunities on campus. Each school is going to be different, so it’s important that you research all aspects of a college before deciding where to go. Good luck in your college search! 

Find schools with the student-faculty ratio that fits you best using our College Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
choosing a college college search college search criteria colleges and universities student-faculty ratio

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with Bold.org for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

None

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services! I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

College Matches