published Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Demand grows for part-time professors at colleges and universities

UTC professor Dr. Pedro Campa teaches an advanced grammar class at UTC on Thursday. Campa teaches Spanish, French and Italian. He became tenured in 1975.
UTC professor Dr. Pedro Campa teaches an advanced grammar class at UTC on Thursday. Campa teaches Spanish, French and Italian. He became tenured in 1975.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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TRENDS IN FACULTY STATUS


National

1975 vs. 2009

Full-time tenured: 29 percent, 16.8 percent

Full-time tenure track: 16.1 percent, 7.6 percent

Full-time nontenure track: 10.3 percent, 15.1 percent

Part-time: 24 percent, 41.1 percent

Graduate student employees: 20.5, 19.4

Source: American Association of University Professors Research office.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

• Faculty comparisons

Classification 2004 2009 2010 2011

Full time 368 391 465 452

Adjunct 292 296 314 308

• Category 2004 2009 2010 2011

Tenured 209 211 253 246

Tenure track 76 79 84 79

Nontenure track 83 101 128 127

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The use of adjunct professors soared at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the five years ending in 2009, but since then officials have improved parity by hiring more full-time, tenured faculty.

Today, about 41 percent of faculty at UTC are adjuncts, matching the national average.

The faculty increases are in keeping with enrollment, which has risen more than 20 percent in five years, said Phil Oldham, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“We have to find ways to hire more faculty [both part time and full time] and that’s probably the biggest challenge right now, with the level of state support and the desire to keep tuition as low as possible,” Oldham said.

The national trend toward the use of adjunct faculty began about three decades ago and accelerated in the last 10 to 15 years as more colleges and universities sought to save money in the face of shrinking budgets.

It is generally accepted that adjunct faculty benefit students through their practical experience and professional expertise. But a lack of tenured faculty can cost students in areas including counseling and mentoring and the overall quality of academic programs, experts say.

Despite the rise in the number of full-time, tenured faculty, some remain concerned about so much reliance on adjunct and nontenured faculty.

“If you examine student course loads, the number of classes they take from adjuncts compared to regular full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty, you will find that many students have mostly adjuncts throughout their stay at UTC,” said Shela Van Ness, an associate professor of sociology.

“This is a more accurate picture of what occurs at UTC than to look only at numbers of full-time faculty compared to part-time,” she added. Van Ness recently stepped down as UTC chapter vice president of the United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s higher education union.

ALL ABOUT ECONOMICS

Nationwide, the trend continues to move toward more part-time faculty and full-time faculty who are not on the tenure track, said John Curtis, director of research and public policy with the American Association of University Professors. The association represents higher education faculty.

A lot of the trend has to do with public institutions receiving less money from the state, he said.

“As a result, they’ve been looking to cut costs,” Curtis said. “Unfortunately, one of the ways they’ve done that is to hire more faculty positions that don’t pay benefits and pay very low wages as well, and use that to keep their costs down.”

UTC was able to hire more faculty, including adjuncts, from 2009 to 2011 because of an infusion of federal stimulus money.

The average annual salary for full-time faculty at UTC ranges from nearly $56,000 to more than $84,000, before some bonuses.

A part-time professor usually gets paid by the course, depending on the discipline. At UTC that fee ranges from about $2,500 to $3,500 per course, said Oldham.

From 2004 to 2010, the number of full-time faculty at UTC increased 26 percent, before declining to 452 in 2011. Today, 59 percent of faculty are full time. Of those, more than 70 percent are either tenured or on the tenure track, data show.

Yet the number of full-time faculty not on the tenure-track has grown by more than half since 2004.

Nevertheless, UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell said almost 80 percent of classes are taught by full-time people, since 308 adjunct faculty members are carrying the teaching load of 117 full-time faculty.

At neighboring Dalton State College, part-time faculty more than doubled over the past decade, from 35 to 80. During the same period the number of full-time instructors increased 56 percent, from 109 to 170.

But the majority of the growth in part-time faculty happened from 2001 to 2006, said Sandra Stone, vice president for academic affairs at Dalton State, because the budget for part-time faculty since has been cut in half.

Higher education funding in Tennessee has lost about $300 million since its peak funding in 2008, or about 22 percent. And that came amid a 15 percent increase in enrollment, or more than 30,000 students.

The University System of Georgia lost about $550 million in state funding from fiscal year 2009 through 2012, almost 24 percent.

At the same time, system enrollment grew by close to 40,000 students.

PROS AND CONS

Adjunct instructors have their advantages and disadvantages, officials said.

Take Jack Bailey, a retired senior manager in material management from TVA, with 29 years of experience. He teaches one or two courses of quality management at Dalton State College.

“I can bring to the subject the experience that a professor may not have,” said the 60-year-old Chattanooga resident.

“We’ll be discussing topics in the class, and I can relate with real-life experiences. It makes it a little more than something out of the book.”

Pedro Campa teaches French, Italian and Spanish at UTC and has been doing so for 41 years. He is a full-time professor who gained tenure in 1975.

His job description includes making time to advise students and help them after class. He is able to build relationships with students outside the classroom, he said, something part-time professors aren’t paid to do.

He said having too many adjunct faculty puts more responsibility on tenured faculty because they need to supervise the quality of instruction.

During his first 20 years of teaching there were about two or three adjunct professors in the foreign languages department. Now there are six to eight, he said.

Generally, departments such as English, foreign languages and even math tend to have more part-time faculty, Curtis said.

Van Ness said her department, sociology, anthropology and geography, clearly needs more full-time faculty, but almost all new hires are adjuncts.

“I know lack of financial support from the legislature is a big factor in these problems, and some of our adjuncts do a wonderful job of teaching, but I view this as a system which has some negative consequences for the university and the students,” she said. “The present situation will not get UTC to the next level of educational leadership.”

NEED AND BALANCE

Sometimes the decision to hire an adjunct comes down to need, not just money, Stone said. Yet the importance of full-time faculty is not to be overlooked, she said.

“While part-time faculty can help fill in when there are increases in enrollment or in some cases when there is a need for someone with a special area of expertise, and they are less expensive, institutions still need a substantial core of full-time, permanent faculty,” she said.

Oldham said there needs to be a balance between the number of adjunct and full-time instructors, and if used appropriately, adjuncts can contribute greatly to an institution.

“There’s a level of institutional agility that you are able to gain through nontenured track appointments and use of adjuncts,” he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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