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FAQ on Trends Toward Contingency and Marginalization of Faculty

Part-time and non-tenure track faculty are now the majority of faculty at our colleges and universities, and their numbers continue to increase. Here’s the breakdown:

  • In 2011, part-time faculty represented 50 percent of all teaching faculty at degree- granting institutions, up from 34 percent in 1987 and 22 percent in 1970 (source).

  • More than two-thirds of instructional faculty are now non-tenure track. In 1969, tenured and tenure-track positions made up approximately 78.3 percent of the faculty, and non-tenure track positions comprised about 21.7 percent. In 2009, tenured and tenure- track faculty had declined to 33.5 percent, and 66.5 percent of faculty were ineligible for tenure (source).

  • Nationally, the numbers of part-time faculty members has increased at almost three times the rate of full-time faculty members in the last 15 years. The number of part- time faculty doubled from 1995 to 2011. In the same time period, the number of full-time faculty increased by 38 percent (source).

    While revenues and tuition have increased, spending on instruction has declined.

  • College tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent (source).

  • Revenues at all types of degree-granting institutions have steadily increased in the last two decades, with private institutions showing more gain than public institutions.6 However, in both the private and public sectors, the proportion of total spending going toward the direct cost of instruction through faculty salaries has declined (source). 

  • The number of non-faculty professionals in higher education increased by 240 percent from 1976 to 2001, at a rate of more than three times that of faculty (source). 

    The business model of over-reliance on contingent faculty has a negative impact on the profession and the quality of education adjuncts are able to provide.

  • Increased reliance on contingent faculty with no job security threatens academic freedom as contingent faculty depend on the will of administrators and/or student feedback to get and maintain teaching positions. 

  • Part-time and non-tenure track faculty are limited in their participation with faculty governance. Many part-time faculty members never attend meetings where departmental policies are discussed even though they often have face-to-face contact with more students than the tenure-track faculty and department administrators. 

  • Increased reliance on contingent faculty with no job security threatens academic freedom as contingent faculty depend on the will of administrators and/or student feedback to get and maintain teaching positions. 

  • Part-time faculty typically do not receive benefits. In 1999, a nationwide study across eleven humanities and social science disciplines found that 63 percent of departments surveyed offered no benefits whatsoever to part-time faculty (source). 

  • Part-time professors get little support for research or scholarship. In 2003, part-time faculty reported spending 90 percent of their time on teaching, 6.6 percent on administrative and other duties, and 3.4 percent on research (source). 

  • Prep time for courses taught by contingent faculty is often minimal. Nearly two-thirds of faculty reported receiving three weeks or less notice to prepare for class assignments in an August 2012 nationwide survey (source). 

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