US institutions increasingly turn to full-time, non-tenure-track faculty

February 9, 2015

A new analysis of federal data performed by Steven J Shulman, a Colorado State University economist, shows that US colleges are increasingly relying on full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. As a result, the number of part-time faculty members has declined somewhat after decades of growth; however, the number of part-time faculty employed at doctoral institutions continued to grow. "Our largest and most prestigious universities are the ones that are most culpable in the employment trends that are upending the tenure system and spreading low-wage labor as a routine means of educating undergraduates," the report argues. The report also found that the proportion of tenure-track faculty who are not yet tenured has declined, a trend described by the author as "a worrisome predictor of future declines in the fraction of all faculty who hold tenure." However, Adrianna Kezar, Director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, says that a move toward full-time faculty is a positive trend. Kezar noted that full-time, non-tenure-track faculty are more available to students and help ensure consistency in the curriculum. She also added that reliance on part-time faculty comes with hidden costs associated with high turnover. The Chronicle of Higher Education