Community College Faculty Rewards: Expectations and Incentives

Article excerpt

The research investigates responsibilities of community college faculty and the rewards they may expect to receive for their efforts. Researchers surveyed community colleges in one Southern state. Survey results present disparities, and the authors make suggestions for bridging the gap between expectations and rewards.

Background

Recent national attention examines faculty rewards and incentives in higher education; however, little of the attention has focused on the community college. The notion exists that faculty members deserve reward based on activities they regularly engage in, particularly the kinds of activities that institutions value and wish to encourage. However, traditional reward structures such as grants and travel funds often favor research and scholarly activities, a circumstance with profound implications for the community college, which is often described as the teaching college.

In Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate (1990), Boyer encourages educators to broaden the notion of scholarship from discovery to include integration, application, and teaching, thus fostering teaching as a serious scholarly activity. The phrase "scholarship of teaching" has received frequent use since the publication of Boyer's work. It offers a new way of thinking about the work that faculty does, and it suggests that, like traditional research-based activities, teaching should be rewarded as a scholarly activity. Boyer makes the observation, however, that "today, on campuses across the nation, there is a recognition that the faculty reward system does not match the full range of academic functions and that professors are often caught between competing obligations" (p. 1). Boyer's work marks the beginning of an ongoing scholarly discussion about faculty roles and rewards.

The question arises whether the disjunction between rewards and functions also exists in community colleges. The focus of the following research was to determine what community college faculty responsibilities entail and what the current reward structures look like in the Alabama Community College System. As context for the study, a consideration of faculty workloads and faculty rewards at a national level becomes important.

Review of the literature

Faculty workloads

Cohen and Brawer (1989) address the issue of faculty workloads in the community college. For community college faculty, they conclude that "the number of hours taught (13-15) seems high when placed against the university faculty's 5-9 hours" (p. 74). However, the authors find that "both do spend the same amount of time on the job" (p. 74). Although community college instructors may spend as much time working as their peers, the nature of the work they perform is different; they spend little time conducting research and more time teaching students. Cohen and Brawer suggest that " many community college instructors would willingly spend more time in scholarly pursuits, as the university professors do, if they had fewer classes to meet" (p. 75).

The expectation that community college faculty focuses primarily on teaching is evident in the workload. Rifkin (1999) concurs with Cohen and Brawer that teaching consumes at least 15 hours per week of the instructors' time, compared to fewer hours for instructors from traditional four-year institutions and research universities. These faculty members also accumulate more hours of student contact through activities such as advising and tutoring than do their counterparts (Rifkin, 1999; A changing, 1998). Not only do they spend more time teaching students, but the students they teach are often unprepared academically for the demands of college (Rifkin, 1999). Therefore, community college faculty members must spend more time outside of their disciplines learning how to teach basic skills (Bundy, 2000).

Huber's extensive investigation into community college education has led to significant findings and recommendations. …