Determining Public 2-Year College Faculty's Intent to Leave: An Empirical Model

By Rosser, Vicki J.; Townsend, Barbara K. | Journal of Higher Education, January-February 2006 | Go to article overview

Determining Public 2-Year College Faculty's Intent to Leave: An Empirical Model


Rosser, Vicki J., Townsend, Barbara K., Journal of Higher Education


Faculty turnover, whether through departures to new venues or retirement, is costly for institutions. There are literal costs, such as expenses in recruiting and selecting new faculty, as well as psychic costs, such as severed professional and student-teacher relationships. Some turnover is inevitable as faculty members retire or become too ill to continue working. Occasional limited turnover is even desirable if a faculty member cannot perform at the level required and is asked or decides voluntarily to leave. Much turnover, however, is not inevitable but results from faculty dissatisfaction with their jobs--dissatisfaction that may be subject to correction if administrators and other faculty know what is causing it (e.g., unclear job expectations, heavy work assignments, low salaries). Understanding the factors that affect job satisfaction is critical if institutions are to retain their faculty.

Among public 2-year college faculty, who represented in fall 1998 18% of all full-time and 44% of all part-time faculty (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2001, p. iv), this topic is particularly important because almost half are expected to retire within the next 10 to 15 years (Fugate & Amey, 2000; Rifkin, 2000). Those who remain are subject to job opportunities at other institutions, both within and outside academe (Burnett, 2003). For example, 4-year colleges and universities seeking to fill non-tenure track positions devoted primarily to teaching rather than to research may find community college faculty highly appropriate for these positions. Another competitor is private industry, particularly for vocational-technical faculty (Fugate & Amey, 2000).

Recruiting and replacing faculty is a major concern of community college leaders. In a national study of work-related factors affecting the stress level of community college deans, Wild (2002) found that 41% of the 251 deans who responded to her queries about future challenges identified "hiring, finding, replacing, and retiring" faculty. In another national study that looked at retirement of community college faculty, the researchers found that 51% of the Chief Academic Officers in the study thought there would be "difficulty recruiting fully prepared faculty members" (Berry, Hammons, & Denny, 2001, p. 133). Thus, retaining current faculty who are not at retirement age would seem to be an important task for community colleges.

What factors are related to community college faculty's likelihood or intent to leave a position, either for another academic institution or for a career outside of academe? Since previous theoretical work has shown that the intent to stay or leave a position is a good proxy for actual turnover (Bluedorn, 1982; Lee & Mowday, 1987; Mobley, 1982; Steers & Mowday, 1981), answers to this question can alert community college administrators and faculty to problematic factors so that these factors can be alleviated. If some identified factors affecting intent to leave are beyond the control of administrators, then those administrators can accept the inevitability of some faculty departures.

Conceptual Framework

Faculty turnover has been studied for decades, but primarily in the 4-year sector, and especially with faculty in research universities. Studies examining turnover initially focused on individuals and their motivations for leaving (e.g., Caplow & McGee, 1958; Flowers & Hughes, 1973), while more recent studies, influenced by research on turnover in nonacademic organizations (e.g., Bluedorn, 1982), have focused on organizational and structural variables manifested in faculty worklife and viewed as influencing attitudes toward work or job satisfaction (e.g., Matier, 1990; Weiler, 1985). Job satisfaction is seen as one of several intermediate social psychological variables that affect intent to leave or actual turnover (Johnsrud & Rosser, 2002). …

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