Employing Adjunct Faculty from an HR Perspective

By Schneider, Joseph M. | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview
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Employing Adjunct Faculty from an HR Perspective


Schneider, Joseph M., Phi Kappa Phi Forum


In many states there is an ongoing controversy regarding the large number of college classes being taught by adjunct faculty. A review of individual personnel data reports in institutions of higher education frequently reveals that the number of part-time or "adjunct" faculty exceeds the number of full faculty.

This article provides general insight into the motivation and circumstances that are usually considered when decisions are made about employing adjunct faculty. While information being used for this article is based upon the Florida Community College System in general and specifically Palm Beach Community College, one of Florida's larger public community colleges, much of this information is also likely to apply to other areas of higher education.

During the annual budget-preparation process, administrative decisions must be made regarding the number of full-time faculty and the number of part-time or adjunct faculty to be employed for the forthcoming fiscal or academic year. Unless there is a pending reduction in full-time faculty, their number is likely either to remain intact or to increase if enrollment and funding will allow for an increase in full-time faculty. Even if there is a pending reduction in full-time faculty, tenured faculty members are very likely to remain employed because of the job security that they have.

Full-time faculty members are also much more likely to be represented by a faculty union that may increase their employment security. Adjunct/temporary faculty members have no such employment security. They typically are employed term-by-term without any guarantee of future employment, even though some adjunct faculty members may be employed on term-by-term contracts at individual colleges or universities for a number of consecutive years. In addition, it is not uncommon for some adjunct faculty to teach the same number of classes as full-time faculty usually teach during a year. Generally they receive no sick leave or any other employee benefits except legally mandated benefits such as workers compensation. While a number of states allow the unionization of adjunct-faculty members, they usually are not represented by faculty unions in most states, including Florida.

The cost difference between employing full-time faculty versus employing adjunct faculty to teach the same classes is frequently quite dramatic. A comparison of a projected mean or average salary of a full-time faculty member at Palm Beach Community College teaching a full load with one or more adjunct-faculty members teaching the same classes reveals that the salary costs are only about 40 percent as much when employing adjunct-faculty members.

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