What Charles Dickens said of the times leading up to the French Revolution could be said of the impending turnover of college faculty and administrators: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...." Depending on one's perspective, the next decade will be the most exciting or the most trying of times. The cause for optimism or pessimism is the prospect of a large turnover of faculty and administrators. The prospect is exciting because community college leaders will have the opportunity to impact significantly the culture and future direction of their institutions (Murray, 1999; Vaughan, 2001). However, much has also been written about a potential shortage of qualified community college faculty members. The impending shortage seems to be due to four factors: large numbers of retirements, increasing undergraduate enrollments, a lack of qualified candidates for faculty positions, and the inability of colleges to retain faculty. In the next few years, faculty may be retiring in unprecedented numbers. "Nationally, some 30% of the almost 100,000 community-college faculty members are likely to retire or otherwise leave their teaching positions in the next 3 years, according to the American Association of Community Colleges" (Evelyn, 2001, p. A8). One study found that 31% of all full-time community college faculty were 55 years of age or older, and 52% of these faculty stated that they planned to retire by 2004 (Shults, 2001). Another study found that "from 25,850 to 30,040 full-time community college faculty members will likely retire during the next 10 years" (Berry, Hammons, & Denny, 2001, p. 13).
At the same time colleges and universities are experiencing a rapid growth in enrollments. The National Center for Education Statistics' Projections of Education Statistics to 2010 predicts that overall college enrollment will grow by over two million students by 2010 to approximately approximately 17.5 million (Burnett, 2001). This is mostly due to "Tidal Wave II," the name given to the surge in births that occurred when the children of the baby boomers became adults. When we add to this the increasing numbers of nontraditional-aged students attending college, we can begin to see the scope of the crisis. Already numerous community colleges are reporting surges in enrollments that are creating shortages of faculty (Burnett, 2001).
Further exacerbating the problem is that there does not seem to be a large pool of applicants who are anxious or qualified to become community college teachers. Moreover, as many as 40% of current full-time faculty have seriously considered leaving the profession (Sanderson, Phua, & Herda, 2000), suggesting that job dissatisfaction is high among the professorate. Increasing enrollments coupled with a decreasing labor market add up to a potential crisis for college administrators. Although colleges and universities with national or regional reputations will be able to compete better in a shrinking labor market, the crisis is likely to be worse for colleges without such prestige. In other words, a shrinking labor market could spell difficulty for some community colleges.
Among those institutions at the greatest disadvantage may be rural community colleges. Rural community colleges cannot offer potential faculty the financial, cultural, and social advantages that more urban institutions can. Further intensifying the problem, as noted by Dr. Fong (president of Foothill-DeAnza Community College) is that community colleges "cannot put just anyone in a classroom and call them a teacher" (Burnett, 2000, p. 7). For community college leaders there are at least two overlapping considerations when recruiting and hiring a new professor. First, although the reality behind the rhetoric has been called into question by some (Grubb, 1999; O'Banion, 1994), community colleges take enormous pride in placing teaching at the heart of their mission (Cohen & Brawer, 1996; DeBard, 1995; Huber, 1998; Vaughan, 2000). …