the massive shift in the academic labor market: the rise of part timers


Let’s follow up on Brayden’s post on higher education, which focused on alleged problems in higher education. There is one issue that nearly all observers agree is large and important – the massive shift to part time faculty. This has two consequences. First, it means that the average wage and compensation package for faculty is, on the average, shrinking. Second, it means that there are fewer and fewer stable tenure track jobs waiting for graduate students. This nice post illustrates the trend. It is taken from this article from The Society Pages.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 9, 2013 at 4:04 am

Posted in education, fabio

9 Responses

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  1. The massive shift toward low-wage contingent faculty makes the rapidly increasing tuition at most institutions even harder to explain. I mean, I know people often point to the proliferation of high-paid administrators and declining state funding, but can this really account for the whole increase even after factoring in low paid adjuncts? If not, where is the money the going?



    September 9, 2013 at 5:05 am

  2. Some people think it has to do with facilities, but Brayden claimed that facilities are often paid with fundraising, not tuition. My sense is that colleges have expanded along multiple dimensions – graduate programs, student services, administrator salaries, new administrative positions, health care costs, facilities, etc.

    Sadly, full time faculty is one of the few areas that has not seen an increase!



    September 9, 2013 at 5:09 am

  3. Well, I was part of a Penn State committee that reviewed the transformation of the composition of the college, and we found much the same thing, but with an important caveat. During the early 1990s, the ratio of tenure-line (or tenured) faculty as compared to part-time (or full-time, but nevertheless non-tenure track) faculty was about 6-to-1. Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and the ratio shifts to 2-to-1 (approximately). Sure enough, the relative increase in part-time (or full-time not tenure track) faculty is considerable and is changing the dynamic at the University. The caveat, however — and perhaps this plays out in the broader data outlined here too — while the raw number of part-time faculty increased, so did the raw number of tenure-track faculty, although, obviously, just not at the same rate, hence, both groups grew just not symmetrically. Thus, it may not be fair to say: “Sadly, full time faculty is one of the few areas that has not seen an increase!” because they have seen an increase of sorts, I’d wager, just not an increase at the same relative pace as their part-time counterparts.



    September 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

  4. This visual is really striking.

    I had a similar thought to Nicholas and tracked down the information from the report. Raw numbers of tenured and tenure-track faculty have grown, but at a truly meager rate compared to the contingent and part-time faculty. Another report has detailed information on part-time faculty, often by the type of institutions that they work for. I would love to see a line representing the growth of for-profit and other credentialing schools included in this figure.



    September 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

  5. Interesting that much of the shift happened not in the lean years but in the high times of the late 1990s.



    September 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm

  6. I’m surprised that only about 45% of the instructional staff in 1975 were full-time, tenured (29%) or tenure-track (16%) faculty. Yes, there’s been a dramatic decline in tenure line faculty, but it’s off a lower base than I would have guessed based on the “demise of higher ed and/or the professoriate” genre.

    (BTW, this graph would be a lot cleaner if the distance between the points on the x axis were constant. Extrapolation for the win…)



    September 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  7. One more critical information is needed to evaluate the quality/cost balance: What happened in the same period to the student/staff staff? Besides the expansion of part-time non-tenured staff is partially due to the expansion of the students body to social and educational strata deemed to have less “complex” and research-oriented learning needs.



    September 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  8. Correlation is not causation, but the growth of faculty unions stalled right about the time this graph started (late 1970s).


    Eric Swank

    September 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

  9. […] interests eventually be squeezed out entirely?” Another article on discusses the rise of part-time faculty in recent years. Are we entering a reality where “fewer and fewer stable tenure track jobs [are] waiting for […]


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