Friday, February 28, 2014

Key Findings about College Adjunct Faculty from the Coalition on the Academic Workforce

“According to data from the United States Department of Education’s 2009 Fall Staff Survey, of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenure track, either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants. Despite the majority status of the contingent academic workforce, the systematic information available on the working conditions of these employees is minimal…

“In an effort to address the lack of data on contingent faculty members and their working condi­tions, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) fielded an ambitious survey in fall 2010, seeking information about the courses these faculty members were teaching that term, where they were teaching them, and for what pay and benefits. The survey received close to 30,000 responses, with just over 20,000 coming from individuals who identified themselves as working in a contin­gent position at an institution or institutions of higher education in fall 2010.

“The survey was open to any faculty member or instructor who wished to complete a question­naire; respondents therefore do not constitute a strictly representative sample of faculty members working in contingent positions. Nevertheless, the response provides the basis for a more detailed portrait of the work patterns, remuneration, and employment conditions for what has long been the fastest-growing and is now the largest part of the academic workforce.

“The CAW survey was designed with a particular focus on faculty members teaching part-time at United States institutions of higher education. Numbering more than 700,000, this population repre­sents more than 70% of the contingent academic workforce and almost half the entire higher educa­tion faculty in the United States. Faculty members in part-time positions were also by far the largest group of respondents to the CAW survey, providing 10,331 of the 19,850 valid responses from con­tingent faculty members and instructors who were teaching at least one course in fall 2010. Of these part-time faculty respondents, 9,238 provided data on a total of 19,615 courses they were teaching.

“The following report provides initial findings from the survey, looking specifically at the part-time faculty respondents and the data they provided at the course level. The report also raises a series of questions that other researchers might pursue to develop an even richer understanding of part-time faculty in higher education and topics for future reports looking at the other groups of respondents. 

“Key Findings: While the report provides details on demographics, working conditions, and professional support as reported by the faculty respondents who indicated they were teaching part-time in fall 2010, several key indicators stand out that show how heavily colleges and universities are relying on part-time faculty members while failing to support them adequately.
The median pay per course, standardized to a three-credit course, was $2,700 in fall 2010 and ranged in the aggregate from a low of $2,235 at two-year colleges to a high of $3,400 at four-year doctoral or research universities. While compensation levels varied most consistently by type of institution, part-time faculty respondents report low compensation rates per course across all institutional categories.
Part-time faculty respondents saw little, if any, wage premium based on their credentials. Their compensation lags behind professionals in other fields with similar credentials, and they experienced little in the way of a career ladder (higher wages after several years of work).
Professional support for part-time faculty members’ work outside the classroom and inclusion in academic decision making was minimal.
Part-time teaching is not necessarily temporary employment, and those teaching part-time do not necessarily prefer a part-time to a full-time position. Over 80% of respondents reported teaching part-time for more than three years, and over half for more than six years. Further­more, over three-quarters of respondents said they have sought, are now seeking, or will be seeking a full-time tenure-track position, and nearly three-quarters said they would definitely or probably accept a full-time tenure-track position at the institution at which they were cur­rently teaching if such a position were offered.
Course loads varied significantly among respondents. Slightly more than half taught one course or two courses during the fall 2010 term, while slightly fewer than half taught three or more..."

from a 51-page Survey Report conducted by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce

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