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Adjunct/part-time instructors vs. tenure-track professors


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Is there an easy way to compare universities on this metric? It’s not something we considered at all (you don’t know what you don’t know!) for our first two daughters’ college search processes. However, as we gear up for DD3 to pick a school, it is a factor I want to be able to consider. 
 

Is there info in the common data set on use of adjuncts vs. professors at each school? Or do we need to ask someone in admissions? 

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You can go to College Factual, enter individual universities, and tap on the faculty and then under that heading tap on % and it will break it down. However, adjuncts and contract faculty would both be considered contingent faculty, and there’s no way to know how many are adjunct and how many are contract faculty. (Contract faculty could be, for example, language instructors who might have quasi permanent status via renewable contract but since they aren’t involved in research will never be tenured.)

One thing would be to go into the departments she is interested in at the individual schools and have a look at the faculty to see if they’re tenured or on the tenure track.

Edited by bibiche
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I am sure you have good reasons why you want this information.

For the benefit of posters who are not as familiar with college, I want to comment:
whether a professor is tenured/tenure track or an adjunct/contract has absolutely no bearing on their teaching ability. At many universities, tenure hinges on research productivity, and teaching has to be just good enough to not be a disaster. There is no way to fire a tenured professor who is/becomes a horrible teacher. 
Knowing how many of the faculty are tenured vs adjunct will not give any information about the quality of education a student will receive at that institution.

Signed, 
your friendly non-tenured physics professor with 20 years teaching experience, great teaching ratings, and a one-year contract

Edited by regentrude
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15 minutes ago, regentrude said:

I am sure you have good reasons why you want this information.

For the benefit of posters who are not as familiar with college, I want to comment:
whether a professor is tenured/tenure track or an adjunct/contract has absolutely no bearing on their teaching ability. At many universities, tenure hinges on research productivity, and teaching has to be just good enough to not be a disaster. There is no way to fire a tenured professor who is/becomes a horrible teacher. 
Knowing how many of the faculty are tenured vs adjunct will not give any information about the quality of education a student will receive at that institution.

Signed, 
your friendly non-tenured physics professor with 20 years teaching experience, great teaching ratings, and a one-year contract

Thanks for this! Honestly, it feels like a moral issue to me. It bothers me that some colleges/universities appear to be using adjunct instructors because they’re cheap labor. It seems exploitive and wrong that we’re paying what we do to the school and they are turning around and eliminating FT faculty jobs and backfilling those classes with cheaper labor. It may not be as simple as this, but it’s something that I think consumers should be aware of and care about.

Incidentally, DDs have had a few EXCELLENT adjuncts that impacted their education in a big, positive way. 

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3 minutes ago, fourisenough said:

Thanks for this! Honestly, it feels like a moral issue to me. It bothers me that some colleges/universities appear to be using adjunct instructors because they’re cheap labor. It seems exploitive and wrong that we’re paying what we do to the school and they are turning around and eliminating FT faculty jobs and backfilling those classes with cheaper labor. It may not be as simple as this, but it’s something that I think consumers should be aware of and care about.

Incidentally, DDs have had a few EXCELLENT adjuncts that impacted their education in a big, positive way. 

Yep, this.

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2 minutes ago, fourisenough said:

Thanks for this! Honestly, it feels like a moral issue to me. It bothers me that some colleges/universities appear to be using adjunct instructors because they’re cheap labor. It seems exploitive and wrong that we’re paying what we do to the school and they are turning around and eliminating FT faculty jobs and backfilling those classes with cheaper labor. It may not be as simple as this, but it’s something that I think consumers should be aware of and care about.

Incidentally, DDs have had a few EXCELLENT adjuncts that impacted their education in a big, positive way. 

With state appropriations down and budget cuts and hiring stops for tenure track faculty, colleges often don't have much of a choice. 
Vote for legislators who are willing to fund education. 

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31 minutes ago, regentrude said:

With state appropriations down and budget cuts and hiring stops for tenure track faculty, colleges often don't have much of a choice. 
Vote for legislators who are willing to fund education. 

Well, they could pay their coaches less...

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There can be a big difference of how adjuncts are used, depending upon the subject matter.  In finance, for example, we may have a specialized class that we bring in a practitioner to teach as an adjunct.  In entreprenuership, we may bring in a local entrepreneur to teach a class.  So, there can be extra experience that the adjunct brings in.   Those situations can be enriching for students, but at the same time, can be situations in which the instructor has less time for office hours and other interactions with students.  

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I agree that there are issues at some universities of using adjuncts as a cheap labor force.  I have concerns about the growing trend in using adjunct professors at some universities because I think it does change the nature of the university totally separate from the quality of the adjunct professor's teaching.  Adjunct professors do not necessarily see the big picture of the educational process and curriculum, they do not interact with the other faculty members as much, and they do not have as much student contact.  This is another move of governance at universities moving away from academics to career university administartors.   

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  • 3 weeks later...

youngest dd is a junior in college now (oldest has graduated).  Both have had excellent tenured and adjunct professors.  Both have had some "interesting" professors.  Individually it would be a difficult thing to nail down.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/1/2021 at 3:32 PM, regentrude said:

I am sure you have good reasons why you want this information.

For the benefit of posters who are not as familiar with college, I want to comment:
whether a professor is tenured/tenure track or an adjunct/contract has absolutely no bearing on their teaching ability. At many universities, tenure hinges on research productivity, and teaching has to be just good enough to not be a disaster. There is no way to fire a tenured professor who is/becomes a horrible teacher. 
Knowing how many of the faculty are tenured vs adjunct will not give any information about the quality of education a student will receive at that institution.

Signed, 
your friendly non-tenured physics professor with 20 years teaching experience, great teaching ratings, and a one-year contract

Well, I was just going to post this, but you said it better!

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  • 2 weeks later...

My issue with institutions that depend on non tenured / adjunct instructors is not so much the quality of the instructors but my dim view of policies that do not support faculty members and provide them with job security and sufficient income. 

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