October 29, 2015

Is Your Child’s Chosen College Flush with Part-Timers?

Students and parents entering the world of college education should be aware of the changes that have taken place in higher education institutions in recent years. For one, the teaching demographic has changed drastically, and today only 51% of professors teach full-time.

Over-reliance on adjunct professors can impact the quality of your child’s education.

This is an alarming statistic for a number of reasons, and the justification for it just doesn’t add up. Here are a few things you should know about the impact of hiring adjunct professors versus full-time faculty.

It Doesn’t Save You Money

Over the last couple decades, more and more colleges have reduced the number of full-time staff members in favor of hiring part-time or contracted employees. This is because full-time professors earn higher salaries and have health insurance and other benefits that cost the school money.

Adjunct professors typically are paid only for the courses they are teaching at a pre-determined rate and are not eligible for any benefits. This means that the average cost of an adjunct professor is roughly a third of the cost of a full-time professor. The college can then higher several adjunct professors for less than what they would pay for a single full-time member.

In theory, this cost savings should be passed on to students and parents when it comes time to pay tuition. However, tuition rates continue to rise at a rate almost double that of inflation, so you know you aren’t seeing a discount after all.

As tuition rates continue to rise, adjunct professors are relegated to low pay and inconsistent working conditions, and it is harder and harder to keep good professors in the classroom. Students and parents alike should find issue with this, because the myth that adjunct professors will save students money, simply isn’t true.

Educational Quality Suffers

One of the biggest problems with such a heavy reliance on adjunct professors is that they only have limited resources to work with when teaching classes. Many adjunct professors are not given office space on campus or are only given limited amounts of time to spend in a shared office. This means that for any class where a student has an adjunct professor, they may not be able to receive adequate help outside of the classroom if necessary. 

Poor Prospects for Those in Academia

Many adjunct professors are left at the mercy of the system to find enough work to make a livable wage. In many cases, they end up teaching courses that they are not fully qualified to teach, or that they end up picking up the pieces where other professors have had to abandon ship to find a better job.

Many adjuncts juggle multiple jobs, don’t have benefits such as health insurance, and can barely make ends meet. Most shocking is the fact that adjunct professors are expected to have the same qualifications as full-time staff, but only receive a fraction of the pay for their efforts. This is the life that many have to look forward to if they have dreams of teaching at the college level. 

Are There Any Positives to The Reliance on Part-Timers?

Part-time teachers have always been a part of higher education, and it is not always a bad thing. Many adjuncts have had diverse life experience that they wish to share and teaching part-time is a great outlet for them. Students also benefit from the expertise and diversity of these teachers who often have professional experience outside of teaching.

Most of the negatives apply to those part-time professors who would prefer to be full-time and instead are forced to make a living cobbling together multiple teaching jobs. These teachers are over-qualified, underpaid and cannot possibly devote as much attention to students as their full-time peers. As the reliance on part-timers grows and grows, this is becoming more and more the rule rather than the exception.

What Does This Mean For You?

Overall, students and parents should both be aware of the impact that having few full-time professors on staff has on education quality, and be mindful that there is no correlation between these hiring patterns and better tuition rates. Look for schools that have more full-time faculty for better results.

When completing research on College Factual, check the faculty composition page to see how much of the faculty is made up of full time vs part-time staff. This should be one factor you consider along with many others to determine the quality of the education your child will receive.

Are you ready to find the best-match college for your child?

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