New data from the U.S. Education Department reveals that full-time, tenure-track faculty members are slowly decreasing in American higher education. A report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 624,753, or 47.5 percent, of the 1,314,506 faculty members at colleges that awarded federal financial aid in fall 2005 were in part-time positions.
“The move away from tenure-track faculty is due, in part, to a management model that desires flexibility in the hiring and firing of personnel. This is part of the inherent struggle between an educational institution doing what is best to serve its students and financial necessities of balancing the budget,” John Heiberger, associate professor and chairman of the business department, said.
“Unfortunately, it uses an old business model of management, which sometimes treats employees more like replaceable equipment.”
The new numbers represent an increase in number and proportion from 2003 when the last full survey of institutions was conducted and when 543,137 of the 1,173,556 professors, or 46.3 percent, at degree-granting institutions were part timers.
“There seems to be less communication among the part-time professors within the departments,” freshman English major Jessica Gruber said. “They don’t seem as informed as the professors that are here full time.”
“I do believe that faculty and administrators at institutions of higher learning share a common goal of providing their students with the highest quality education and academic experience,” Chris Kule, assistant professor of biology, said.
“All too often, however, it seems in this age of fierce economic competition that colleges and universities find themselves in a position of needing to focus their efforts on the bottom line, perhaps at the expense of offering an adequate number of full-time, tenure-track faculty positions.”
The new report also finds the proportion of all professors who are tenured or on the tenure track to be shrinking.
Of the 675,624 full-time faculty members at degree-granting colleges and universities in 2005, 414,574, or 61.4 percent, were either tenured or on the tenure track. This can be compared to the 411,031 of 630,419, or 65.2 percent, of professors at degree-granting institutions who were tenured or tenure track in 2003.
“I feel like a lack of full-time professors leads to less of a community feel for a college,” freshman English and communication major Jake Verterano said. “It’s a lot better to see familiar faces on a consistent basis as opposed to professors who may teach only one or two classes.”
Kule feels that the full-time, tenure-track faculty play a vital role in meeting the academic needs of the students at Cabrini, fulfilling a multitude of departmental responsibilities and implementing many essential initiatives and programs at the college.
“In comparing the current number of full-time, tenure-track faculty with the needs of various academic departments and the total number of students enrolled, one could question whether the reliance upon faculty who are not full-time and tenure-track is appropriate,” Kule said.
“The most unfortunate aspect of all this, though, is that in the end, it isn’t the institutions or their faculty who are affected the most by this issue. All too often, it is the students.”