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Instructional release (course buyout) policy & guidelines


The following guidelines for administering instructional releases. The guidelines are meant to provide general information and processes about instructional releases and course buyouts used in various departments. The departments have established slightly varied approaches depending on their needs.


  • Each department should have a fair and consistent process for reviewing and handling instructional releases in consideration of balancing department needs with individual needs.
  • Course loads in the COE range from 3-6 courses per year. The cost to buy out of teaching a single course will range from 33% - 75% of the quarterly salary. The department chair will determine the buyout rate for his/her department based on the needs of the department including typical teaching load, replacement instruction costs and other relevant factors. The buyout rate is typically the same for everyone in the department.
  • The department chair has the final authority to approve or deny buyouts based on overall departmental needs including continuity of course offerings. Instructional releases and course buyouts should not adversely impact the operations and functions of the department.


  • Instructional release: releases from instruction granted by the chair to individual faculty based on a number of factors (see responsibilities for further information). May or may not involve reimbursement.
  • Course Buyouts: often used interchangeably with instructional release, course buyouts are releases from instruction granted to individual faculty members by the chair in exchange for funding (provided by the faculty member being released) used to pay for a substitute teacher and to cover administrative costs.


General responsibilities for approving and administering instructional releases are as follows:

  • In some departments, a committee will review requests such as instructional releases and make recommendations to the department chair.
  • The department chair will review requests on a case-by-case basis and decide whether to grant approval. Whether an approval is granted depends if the request can be accommodated within the curriculum schedule, and in consideration of other departmental needs as well as unique departmental circumstances at the time (including number of course enrollment numbers, other instructional releases, suitable teaching replacements, number of sabbaticals/availability of other faculty in the department). The department chair (or designee) is also responsible (with input from the department administrator) for the appointment of auxiliary faculty and negotiating salaries with them as applicable.
  • The administrator is responsible for overseeing the reimbursement process.
  • The administrator or assistant to the chair (depending on department practice) is responsible for processing the appointment.
  • The COE dean’s office will provide some oversight, as applicable about the hiring and/or cost of auxiliary faculty and may make recommendations concerning hires or salaries that tend to exceed the high range for that department, (considering the salary differences between departments, and between types of replacements such as grad students, PhDs, etc.)


Generally, the chair, or designee of a department will determine if requests for instructional releases will or should be granted based primarily on:

  • Department needs (curriculum schedule, number of faculty on leave, course enrollments etc.),
  • Individual faculty needs (teaching evaluations, research demands, administrative or service assignments, performance, etc); and,
  • Availability of suitable teaching replacements

The number of courses each faculty member teaches per year ranges from 3 - 5 depending on many factors including complexity of courses taught, size of class, research obligations, and other administrative or service-related activities and assignments. (Note: Most departments approve releases on a quarterly basis assuming that one course is taught per quarter. However, different reimbursement amounts may apply when buying out more than one course per quarter or more than 3 courses per year.)

Faculty who wish to obtain course buyout for one quarter are generally responsible for reimbursing the department.

  • The amount of reimbursement varies from department to department with a range of 33% - 75% of quarterly salary for release of one course. It is up to the department chair to determine the buyout amount. Many have chosen to set this amount at 33%, however there are many others who set it higher for various reasons including higher costs of replacement instruction. If faculty teach more than 3 courses per year, they may be able to negotiate alternative curriculum scheduling with the chair in order to have a full instructional release for one quarter.
  • The reimbursement is generated from the individual faculty member’s state salary being released because the salary will be paid from non-state budgets (ie, research). Any research dollars used as salary must be in accordance with the rules and regulations of the funding agency.
  • The chair may make exceptions to the reimbursement criteria including:
    • Lighter loads offered to assistant professors in order to ease their transition into their academic roles and progress towards tenure
    • Administrative appointments such as Chair, Associate Chair or other time-consuming service assignments
    • Faculty may trade teaching assignments from quarter to quarter so that the hiring of auxiliary faculty is not necessary, therefore, there are no additional costs to the department incurred.
  • The frequency with which course releases are allowed vary from department to department. It depends on many factors including the number of courses taught, enrollment, number of faculty in the department, number of sabbaticals in the year, and available and qualified substitutes able to teach. Departments range from allowing one quarter instructional release per academic year to up to 3 quarters. Most allow 1 quarter per year, but there may be consideration made for extenuating circumstances.
  • Faculty efforts must reflect an increase in effort in alignment with the increased charge of salary on a grant or grants during a course release/buyout period and must be reflected on the Faculty Effort Certification.


  • If an instructional release without buyout is granted by the chair it is normally documented in an offer letter (for new faculty) or memo.
  • If an instructional release includes reimbursement (with buyout), the faculty member is generally expected to make the request in writing and provide some or all of the following information:
    • Period of buyout
    • Budget number for cost coverage
    • Suggested teaching alternatives for proper coverage of core courses
    • Student support and mentoring
    • Research and/or service involvement
    • History of other instructional releases in the past 2-3 years
  • If the department appoints a committee to review requests such as these, they review and make recommendations to the department chair
  • The chair makes the final decision and informs the faculty member making the request of his or her decision via memo or email