Part-Time Faculty at New Jersey Public Institutions
what extent do New Jersey’s
public colleges and universities rely on part-time faculty, and what
are the implications for students and institutions? This policy brief
is intended to illuminate the issue by presenting pertinent data and raising
questions for further deliberation.
is agreement among the regional accrediting bodies and in the New Jersey
licensure standards that every institution should have a “core” of full-time
faculty. However, it is difficult to specify in quantitative terms how
large that core should be in relation to other faculty; neither the accreditors
nor the state has done so. Conceivably, the optimal ratio might differ
by sector, by institution, and even by academic level or program.
Different sources of data are helpful
in illustrating the extent to which public colleges and universities
in New Jersey rely on part-time faculty. Course section data are the
best way to measure the relative volume of teaching activity performed
by part-time (chiefly adjunct) faculty, as well as that carried out
by graduate teaching assistants. The Commission on Higher Education
surveyed New Jersey colleges and universities in April 2000 to gather
Just over one-third of
all course sections at the public colleges and universities are taught
by part-time faculty
(Table 1). There are broad variations among institutions, and sector
averages range from 27% of course sections taught by part-time faculty
at the state colleges and universities to 44% at the community colleges.
At the public research universities, 31% of course sections are taught
by part-timers. Graduate teaching assistants are found almost exclusively
at the public research universities, where they teach just under 10%
of the course sections. In all sectors, a small percentage of course
sections are taught by nonfaculty (“other”).
Course Sections by Category of Instructor, FY 2000
|Pub. Res. Univs.
|NJ City Univ.
|Wm. Paterson +
|All Public Insts.
|* 8% (unknown) was proportionally
# excludes Edison, which has no faculty.
SOURCE: Commission on Higher Education survey, April 2000.
+ Table updated June 2000 to reflect corrected data submitted
University and Essex County College.
more common, form of related data is a “headcount” of full-time and
part-time faculty members without regard to their teaching loads.
These data, part of the federal IPEDS
surveys, typically exclude graduate teaching assistants. While these
data do not directly measure teaching activity, they are useful because
they refer to people, who can be categorized by factors such as race/ethnicity
About one-half of the faculty at public
institutions in New Jersey are part-time (Table 2). At the community
colleges the part-time share is over two-thirds; at the public research
universities it is somewhat less than 30%, while the state colleges
and universities are slightly above one-half. These data are not limited
to instructional faculty, but also include faculty performing public
service or conducting research.
Faculty Headcount by Full-Time/Part-Time, Fall 1999
|NJ College Sector
|Public Research Univs.
|All Public Institutions
|SOURCE: IPEDS Fall Staff
The availability of high-quality institutional
headcount data on New Jersey colleges and universities for the last
three years and also for the early 1990s makes it possible to discern
a reasonably long trend for the state. These data suggest that for at
least 10 years there has been a steady increase in the relative reliance
upon part-time faculty in New Jersey (Table 3).
Ratios of Adjunct/Part-Time Faculty to Full-Time
Faculty in the NJ Public Higher Education System for
the Years in which Accurate Data Are Available#
|* The first numbers are from
DHE adjunct surveys; the second are from IPEDS. While adjunct
numbers were colleceted as far back as 1988, the IPEDS full-time
faculty data for
UMDNJ were not standardized until 1991.|
** Both the first and the second numbers are from IPEDS.
# For 1993-1996 no appropriate data are available. The
adjunct surveys had ceased, and
the IPEDS part-time faculty data had not yet been brought up to
level of consistency.
Across the New Jersey public system
as a whole, female faculty members are more likely to be part-time than
are male faculty. This difference is especially pronounced at the public
universities, but is reversed at the community colleges. Differences
in racial/ethnic composition between full- and part-time faculty are
minimal. Full-time faculty are slightly more likely to be Asian American
than are part-time.
Recent changes in federal
IPEDS reporting requirements will allow more comparison among states
in the future.
However, absent a standard approach to reporting the numbers of full-
and part-time faculty in the past, no recent and dependable national
headcount data are currently available. However, older national surveys
of faculty show that there was clearly an upward national trend in
faculty use between 1987 and 1992. Four other states that recently
collected comparable faculty data show part-time proportions that are
to or slightly lower than New Jersey’s (Table 4).
Percentages of Faculty at Public Institutions
Who Are Adjunct or Part-Time, for Selected States
|New Jersey, 1999 *
|Maryland, 1998 *#
Colorado, 1998 *#
Missouri, 1999 *
Ohio, 1999 *#
|* From the state coordinating/governing
# Involves a special data collection effort.
data show that New Jersey’s proportion
of part-time faculty is similar to that in the other states for which
reliable data are available. In New Jersey, and probably elsewhere,
the reliance on part-time faculty relative to full-time has been
From the standpoint of academic policy,
the principal negative effects of relying heavily on part-time faculty
include the presumed reduction in the quantity and quality of contact
between faculty and students, as well as the overall lack of integration
of these faculty into the life of an institution and the decision making
processes of academic departments.
Higher education institutions hire part-time
faculty for a variety of reasons. Some bring valuable expertise and
experience in fields that are difficult to staff with full-time faculty
(e.g., high-tech areas and the visual and performing arts). These part-time
faculty, who usually work full-time outside academia, are generally
viewed positively for contributing their professional and practical
knowledge to an institution's academic repertoire. Many other faculty
work part-time by choice because they are committed to family or other
obligations or pursuits. In both cases, their part-time status affects
their accessibility to students and their involvement in the institutional
Institutions also hire part-time faculty
for administrative and/or economic reasons. The use of part-time faculty
provides an institution with greater flexibility in hiring, which helps
it adjust promptly to fluctuating enrollments and student choices of
courses and majors. Moreover, in this era of relative fiscal stringency,
the use of part-time faculty can significantly lower the overall costs
of an institution. The end of mandatory retirement also contributes,
because some full-time faculty with minimal teaching responsibilities
remain on the payroll for longer.
While some faculty members are part-time
by choice, many desire a full-time faculty position and are simply not
able to secure one. This is largely due to a tight academic job market,
especially in certain fields. Part-time faculty who desire tenured or
full-time appointments often feel exploited by institutions; this can
lower their morale and effectiveness. Such consequences are often aggravated
by the fact that part-time faculty are frequently forced by economic
circumstances to hold several positions, each at a different institution
and none with benefits.
Part-time faculty are increasingly vocal
in expressing their resentment about what they regard as their second-class
status. Across the nation, litigation and unionization have become more
common. In fact, part-time faculty are included in collective bargaining
agreements at most New Jersey public four-year institutions.
Dealing effectively with the economic
realities of costs, revenues, and priorities while responding to the
academic and moral issues that are also at stake presents institutions
with serious dilemmas. Clearly, these are very difficult trade-offs.
Whatever one’s views regarding the proper
relative size of the “core” of full-time faculty, the trend toward
still more part-time faculty raises concerns. Each institution must
the right balance among academic considerations, staffing needs, economic
exigencies, and other factors. For most colleges and universities,
would be unrealistic to eliminate part-time faculty altogether, or
to significantly minimize their numbers. In fact, the most likely scenario
for the immediate future is further increases in part-time faculty
the underlying factors bringing about this increase (e.g., fiscal constraints
and shortages of full-time faculty in certain fields) are intensifying.
on part-time faculty is a significant issue for higher education
institutions in New Jersey and
elsewhere, and it merits further discussion. For example, what do administrators
believe regarding the impact of part-time faculty on their undergraduate
students’ learning experience? Do institutional boards of trustees
have policies regarding the extent of reliance on part-time faculty
institutions? For those that do, what are these policies? For the others,
why is there no policy?
Neither New Jersey licensure
rules nor regional accrediting bodies have quantified the “core” of
full-time faculty needed to ensure coherence and drive progress toward
of the academic mission. Is there a need for more specific policy guidance
in this area from licensure and accrediting agencies?
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