While they enjoy the work itself, adjunct faculty have concerns about salary, job security and retirement readiness.
Higher Education Workforce Trends
In an era of severe budgetary constraints, colleges and universities have struggled to create new faculty workforce models that are responsive to the emerging needs of a new generation of diverse, nontraditional students. In fact, the traditional tenured faculty model has been replaced by a model in which part-time and non-tenured faculty play a more significant role.
The evolution of the faculty workforce model has far-reaching implications for colleges and universities, students and other stakeholders. Today, approximately 30% of faculty are tenure track. The remaining 70% who are nontenure track, also commonly referred to as contingent faculty, can be further divided into full-time (20%) and part-time (50%). Part-time nontenure-track faculty are also known as adjunct faculty. A range of individuals fill adjunct and other contingent faculty positions.
In The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers (Johns Hopkins University Press) we documented how the faculty and their careers were being reshaped in fundamental ways. Our most salient finding was documenting the sharp rise of “off track”, contingent faculty appointments. This phenomenon took the form of the rapid escalation of full-time but non-tenurable faculty, as well as the extraordinary growth of part-time (adjunct) faculty.
The use of non-tenure-track and part-time faculty in U.S. colleges and universities is on the rise, altering the composition of the academic workforce in fundamental ways. This project investigated the “contingency movement” using a variety of analytic approaches, including extensive literature review, quantitative analysis of over two decades of national institutional data, and onsite interviews with contingent and non-contingent faculty at a research university, a private liberal arts college, and a public masters-level institution.
The faculty labor force in U.S. colleges and universities is increasingly off the tenure track and, often, working at less than full time. Aggregated data on this phenomenon mask significant differences in institutional commitments to these contingent forms of faculty employment. This report employs comprehensive institutional data for the years 1988 to 2008 to examine the roots of institutional variations in contingent employment.
Senior faculty fall into three groups—25% who expect to retire by a normal retirement age; 15% who expect to, but would prefer not to, work past normal retirement age; and 60% who would like to and expect to work past normal retirement age. Financial necessity is a major reason for most of those expecting to work past normal retirement age. By contrast, 90% of those expecting and hoping to work to an advanced age cite enjoyment of their work and the fulfillment it provides as a major reason.
This research provides a deeper understanding of the issues facing academic institutions when age-eligible professors do not retire and how those issues can best be addressed.