Martin Center column examines impact of adjunct faculty on teaching quality

Dan Way writes for the Martin Center about the growing reliance within higher education on teachers who aren’t tenure-track professors.

The number of part-time and nontenure faculty continues to rise on campus as university officials try to cut costs. So does their dissatisfaction over wages and benefits, which is stirring disruptive pushback.

Few question the credentials, knowledge, or teaching skills of adjunct and contingent faculty. But some are exploring whether their working conditions, lack of institutional support, and, primarily, meager compensation might take a toll on classroom quality, and weaken students’ education.

That is no small worry considering a survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce found 75.5 percent of all college faculty are part-time contingent, adjuncts, graduate student teaching assistants, or full-time but off the tenure track. That translates to 1.3 million of about 1.8 million faculty members nationwide, and about 700,000 of those are adjuncts.

National Center for Education Statistics research shows part-time faculty had a huge growth spurt for years, but that has tapered off. In 1970 there were 369,000 full-time faculty, and 104,000 part-time. By 2015 there were 807,032 full-time faculty, and 743,983 part-time.

The NCES data show the number of all faculty in degree-granting, postsecondary institutions increased 51 percent from fall 1999 to fall 2016. Full-time faculty increased 38 percent during that period. Part-time faculty went up by 74 percent from 1999 to 2011 but decreased 4 percent between 2011 and 2016.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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