ERIC Identifier: ED405037
Publication Date: 1997-01-00
Author: Banachowski, Grace
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Employing Part-Time Faculty in
Community Colleges. ERIC Digest.
Despite the historical role played by part-time instructors in community
colleges, research on part-time faculty is relatively new. This article provides
a brief review of the current literature on the topic of part-time faculty in
community colleges. It examines the growth of part-time faculty since 1960, and
the advantages and disadvantages of using part-timers to deliver instruction.
PART-TIME FACULTY AS THE MAJORITY
The number of part-time
faculty instructors at two-year colleges has grown steadily since the early
1960s. According to Lombardi (1992), part-time faculty constituted 38.5% of the
instructors in 698 junior colleges in 1962. This number increased moderately to
40% in 1971, and three years later grew to nearly 50%. By 1980, nearly 60% of
the faculty in two-year colleges were employed part-time, and 65% in 1993
(National Center for Education Statistics in American Association of Community
Colleges, 1995). Clearly, community colleges rely heavily on part-time faculty
for the delivery of instruction, and the trend is certain to continue.
ADVANTAGES TO EMPLOYING PART-TIME FACULTY
are employed in community colleges for a variety of reasons. First, part-time
faculty save an institution money. Within an environment of shrinking financial
resources, institutions of higher education are forced to seek alternative
methods for delivering costly services (Avakian, 1995; Monroe & Denman,
1991). Adjunct faculty are less costly than full-time faculty in both salaries
and benefits. They are paid one-third of the salary of full-time faculty, have
limited rights to raises, and are rarely promoted to higher-paid, more
prestigious positions (Twigg, 1989).
Second, the use of part-time faculty in community colleges increases
institutional flexibility in matching the demands of varying enrollments
(Lankard, 1993; McGuire, 1993). Adjuncts are contracted to teach at the
beginning of each term and must have their contracts renewed to teach each
subsequent term. Therefore, when matriculation drops, the number of part-time
faculty are easily adjusted by not renewing contracts.
Third, part-time faculty are advantageous because they bring "real world
vocational experience" to the community college environment (Cline, 1993, p.
26). In other words, they enrich academic preparation for the professions
Fourth, part-time faculty themselves benefit from teaching part-time at
community colleges. According to Reed (1985), "professionals in fields other
than teaching are grateful for being able to teach part-time because of the
prestige and fulfillment it adds to their work lives" (p.40). Further, adjuncts
see part-time work as a method by which to secure full-time employment (Silvers,
DISADVANTAGES TO EMPLOYING PART-TIME FACULTY
recent research suggests that the incentives for employing part-timers are
obviously strong, critics contend that the costs of employing a majority of
faculty on a part-time basis far outweigh any benefits. First, critics argue
that increased use of part-time faculty harms full-time faculty by taking away
full-time positions and extra pay for course overloads (Twigg, 1989).
Second, critics claim that part-timers themselves suffer as a result of their
overuse for the delivery of instruction. Monroe and Denman (1991) argue that
part-time faculty roles are unclear and that as a result, adjunct faculty
experience considerable role ambiguity. According to McGuire (1993), part-time
faculty roles are unclear because "too often, colleges fail to integrate
part-time faculty into their institutions" (p. 3).
Role ambiguity also makes part-timers vulnerable to exploitation. Part-time
faculty have no guarantee of continued employment from term to term, no health
insurance or other benefits, few raises or opportunities for promotions, and no
voice in decisions that affect them (Twigg, 1989). These conditions can lead to
frustration (Lankard, 1993).
A third reported disadvantage of employing a large number of part-timers is a
concern that the integrity of the two-year college teaching profession is
severely undermined. However, there is lack of consensus on how integrity is
undermined. Some argue it leads to differentiated teaching services (Samuel,
1989; Thompson, 1992). Research suggests that part-timers rely on traditional
pedagogy. Therefore, they often fail to incorporate new methods of teaching
(Digranes & Digranes, 1995). Contradictory to the claim that part- and
full-time faculty use different teaching methods, data drawn from national
studies of professional development programs for two-year college faculty
revealed that part-timers who engage in professional development activities use
the same methods of teaching as full-timers (Impara, Hoerner, Clowes, and
Alkins, 1991; Kelly, 1992).
Some research appears to conclude that part-timers are less effective
teachers than are full-timers (Spangler, 1990). Yet, other studies conclude that
there are virtually no differences in the type or quality of instruction
delivered by part- and full-time faculty. For example, the results of a study
conducted by the Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges to
examine current policies and practices regarding the use of part-time faculty in
the California system, revealed inconclusive evidence regarding differences in
the quality of instruction provided by full- and part-time faculty (California
Community Colleges, 1987).
A large proportion of the faculty at many
community colleges teach part time. There are both advantages and disadvantages
to employing part-time faculty for delivering instruction. The strongest
disadvantage of using part-time faculty appears to be that they are less
effective teachers than full-timers. However, studies that support the
contention that part-timers are less (or for that matter more) effective
teachers than full-timers are inconclusive. At this time, and until further
evidence to the contrary, it seems that the advantages to employing part-timers
may override the disadvantages.
Both Leslie and Gappa (1993) and Roueche, Roueche, and Milliron (1995)
believe that integration of part-time faculty into college communities is not
only possible, but necessary. In their respective books, both sets of authors
offer recommended practices and models for integrating part-time faculty into
community college organizational cultures. The perspective is that "institutions
that employ part-time faculty strengthen themselves when they adopt a positive,
fair, and investment-oriented stance toward their part-time faculty" (Leslie and
Gappa, 1993, p. 289).
Avakian, A.N. "Conflicting Demands for Adjunct
Faculty." Community College Journal, 65(6), 1995, 34-36.
American Association of Community Colleges. Pocket Profile of Community
Colleges: Trends and Statistics. Washington, DC.: American Association of
Community Colleges, 1995-1996. (ED 379 036)
California Community Colleges. Study of Part-Time Instruction. Sacramento,
CA: California Community Colleges, Office of the Chancellor, 1987. (ED 278 449)
Cline, L. "Work to School Transition: Part-Time Faculty Bring Expertise,
Challenges to College." Vocational Education Journal, 68(2), 26-27, 49, 1993.
Digranes, J.L.A. & Digranes, S.H. "Current and Proposed Uses of
Technology for Training Part-Time Faculty." Community College Journal of
Research and Practice, 19(2), 161-169, 1995.
Impara, J.C., Hoerner, J.L., Clowes, D.A., & Alkins, M.T. "Professional
Development Programs: A Comparison of Full-and Part-Time Occupational-Technical
Faculty." Community College Catalyst, 21(2), 1991, 8-12.
Kelly, D.K. Part-Time and Evening Faculty: Promoting Teaching Excellence For
Adult Evening College Students. Fullerton, CA: Fullerton College, 1992. (ED 348
Lankard, B.A. Part-Time Faculty in Adult and Vocational Education. Columbus,
OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1993. (ED 363
Leslie, D.W., and Gappa, J.M. The Invisible Faculty. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.
Lombardi, J. "The Ambiguity of the Part-Time Faculty." In J. Lombardi &
A.M. Cohen (eds.), Perspectives on the Community College: Essays (pp. 51-67).
Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 1992.
McGuire, J. "Part-Time Faculty: Partners in Excellence." Leadership
Abstracts, 6(6), 1993, 1-3. (ED 367-429)
Monroe, C., & Denman, S. "Assimilating Adjunct Faculty: Problems and
Opportunities." ACA Bulletin, 77, 1991, 56-62.
Phelan, A. Boundary-Spanning Professionals: Value-Adding Roles for Part-Time
Faculty. Pratt Institute's Strategy to Enhance its Curriculum. Paper presented
at a conference sponsored by Empire State College on Value-Added Learning: New
Strategies for Excellence in Education and Training, Saratoga Springs, NY, June
1986. (ED 279 233)
Reed, S. "The Troubled Faculty." New York Times Education Summer Survey,
August 18, 1985, 41-42.
Roueche, J.E., Roueche, S.D. & Milliron, M.D. Strangers in Their Own
Land: Part-Time Faculty in American Community Colleges. Washington, DC: The
Community College Press, 1995.
Samuel, F.M. "Strategy to Eliminate Inequality of Higher Education."
Community College Review, 17(2), 1989, 41-47.
Silvers, P.J. Utilization of Associate Faculty at Pima Community College: A
Report on Surveys of College Associates, Faculty and Department Heads. Pima
Community College Office of Research and Planning: Tucson, AZ, 1990. (ED 329
Spangler, M.S. Part-Time Faculty: Recognizing an Unprotected Minority
(Position Paper 120). Los Angeles, CA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education,
1990. ( ED 321 793)
Thompson, K. "Recognizing Mutual Interests." Academe, 78(6), 1992, 22-26.
Twigg, H.P. Uses and Abuses of Adjunct Faculty in Higher Education. Paper
presented at a National Conference of the Community College Humanities
Association, Washington, DC, November, 1989. (ED 311 984)