Colleges’ Use of Adjuncts Continues To Climb

When Rob Balla left advertising to teach college, he thought it would take two or three years to land a full-time job.

Nine years later, he’s still stringing together part-time jobs, even though he has two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees and teaches beginning writing courses — the bread and butter of many freshman schedules.

“I have a conversation with my family every single semester about how long I can stay with this,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer I can last.”

Balla, 41, is among the hundreds of “road scholars” who teach part time at colleges nationwide.

Their ranks have swelled so much since the 1970s that today they account for about 700,000 of the 1.8 million faculty at two- and four-year institutions nationwide, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

At the University of Akron, almost six out of 10 instructors work part time, the highest ratio of part- to full-timers in the state, according to figures the public universities supplied.

Not only is the number of part-timers high, so is the number of course sections they teach. In fall 2011, part-timers (2,720) taught more sections of undergraduate courses than did full-time faculty (2,591). In other words, an undergraduate had about a 50/50 chance of getting a part-time instructor.

The heavy reliance on part-timers has cost Akron: It was denied a Phi Beta Kappa chapter about three years ago for that reason. The honor society, America’s oldest and arguably most prestigious, has chapters in six tax-supported universities in Ohio, including Kent State and Ohio State.

The issue of part-time faculty is a sensitive one for Akron Provost Mike Sherman, who oversees university academics.

He points out that Akron alone among Ohio universities has a two-year college of its own, and two-year colleges typically hire more part-timers than do four-year schools. Those distinctive staffing needs can’t be discounted, and they skew Akron’s part-time staffing to the high side, he said.

And the high number of part-timers is not necessarily a bad thing, Sherman said. <Read more.>

Via Carol Biliczky, Akron Beacon Journal on Community College Week.