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Issue 1 May 2000
(Table 1 updated June 2000)

Part-Time Faculty at New Jersey Public Institutions

The Issue

To 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.
There 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.

The Data

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 such information.
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”).

Table 1
Course Sections by Category of Instructor, FY 2000
Inst./Sector Sections F.T. P.T. T.A. Other
NJIT 2,620 64.8% 23.9% 8.1% 3.2%
Rutgers 7,184 49.0% 33.0% 10.0% 8.0%
UMDNJ n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Pub. Res. Univs. 9,804 53.2% 30.6% 9.5% 6.7%
TCNJ 2,770 77.0% 21.0% - 2.0%
Kean 3,672 60.1% 35.8% - 4.1%
Montclair 3,779 66.3% 29.6% - 4.1%
NJ City Univ. 2,654 80.4% 16.3% - 3.3%
R. Stockton 1,641 76.0% 20.0% - 4.0%
Ramapo 1,557 64.0% 30.0% - 6.0%
Rowan* 3,677 73.9% 23.9% - 2.2%
Wm. Paterson + 3,306 65.1% 31.0% - 3.9%
State Colls/Univs# 23,056 69.8% 26.7% - 3.5%
Atlantic Cape 1,599 55.0% 42.0% - 3.0%
Bergen 3,153 63.1% 35.8% - 1.1%
Brookdale 2,987 60.0% 36.0% - 4.0%
Burlington 1,470 44.0% 55.0% - 1.0%
Camden 3,255 33.3% 61.8% - 4.9%
Cumberland 880 56.0% 44.0% - -
Essex + 2,194 48.5% 51.5% - -
Gloucester 1,323 52.0% 40.0% - 8.0%
Hudson 1,704 31.0% 60.0% - 9.0%
Mercer 2,350 49.6% 47.2% - 3.2%
Middlesex 2,922 63.6% 35.8% - 0.6%
Morris 2,529 64.0% 36.0% - -
Ocean 2,080 62.0% 35.3% - 2.7%
Passaic 1,448 45.0% 51.5% - 3.5%
Raritan Valley 1,771 47.0% 50.0% - 3.0%
Salem 573 52.0% 39.0% - 9.0%
Sussex 790 37.0% 63.0% - -
Union 2,670 75.2% 24.0% - 0.8%
Warren 414 44.0% 56.0% - 0.8%
Comm. Colleges 36,112 53.6% 43.7% - 2.7%
All Public Insts. 68,972 59.0% 36.1% 1.3% 3.5%
* 8% (unknown) was proportionally allocated.
# excludes Edison, which has no faculty.
SOURCE: Commission on Higher Education survey, April 2000.
+ Table updated June 2000 to reflect corrected data submitted by
William Paterson University and Essex County College.

Another, 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 and sex.
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.

Table 2
Faculty Headcount by Full-Time/Part-Time, Fall 1999
NJ College Sector F.T. P.T. Total % P.T.
Public Research Univs.
State Coll./Univs.
Community Colleges
All Public Institutions 8,794 8,997 17,791 50.6%
SOURCE: IPEDS Fall Staff Survey, 1999.

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).

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#
Year Ratio

87:100 *
91:100 *

97:100 **
98:100 **
102:100 **
* 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 a sufficientlyhigh 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 part-time faculty use between 1987 and 1992. Four other states that recently collected comparable faculty data show part-time proportions that are similar to or slightly lower than New Jersey’s (Table 4).

Table 4
Percentages of Faculty at Public Institutions
Who Are Adjunct or Part-Time, for Selected States
New Jersey, 1999 * 51%
Maryland, 1998 *#
Colorado, 1998 *#
Missouri, 1999 *
Ohio, 1999 *#
* From the state coordinating/governing board.
# Involves a special data collection effort.


The 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 increasing.
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 community.

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 strike the right balance among academic considerations, staffing needs, economic exigencies, and other factors. For most colleges and universities, it 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 because the underlying factors bringing about this increase (e.g., fiscal constraints and shortages of full-time faculty in certain fields) are intensifying.

Future Deliberation

Reliance 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 at their 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 attainment 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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