Tough Times Means More Adjuncts

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Christine Barton
Campus News

“One of the biggest issues facing higher education today is the shift from full-time tenure-track faculty to a more non-permanent workforce-including adjuncts and graduate employees,” states Cynthia Garza spokesperson for American Federation of Teachers (AFT). She further explains that non-permanent employees are traditionally underpaid and under supported. The shift from permanent educational staff to adjunct professors is likely to become worse if budget cuts go through as planned. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In the fall of 2009, President Obama visited Hudson Valley Community College, one of the many community colleges in the state. He spoke to students and declared his support and appreciation for the many fine community colleges throughout the country. Affordability and quality have long been a trademark of community colleges. Community colleges have long provided a great service to the community and to the residents. Shortly after that speech, Governor Paterson announced his proposed budget cuts of $56.7 million that would specifically impact community colleges. With enrollment counts doubling, available funds plummeting, and a lack of consistent teachers, the quality of the community college education is at risk of being compromised. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The higher education cuts are said to offer huge savings to fill in the state deficit. Cuts to SUNY senior colleges will offer savings of $95 million and CUNY almost $48 million. Proposed changes to Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) will save almost $50 million. This will include a $75 deduction to all TAP awards. The aid per full-time student enrolled is said to be reduced by $285 per student generating a potential savings of almost $55 million. Students attending community college will be receiving their high-priced education from more and more non-tenured professors if the staffing trend in higher education continues. The threat of compromised quality of education due to budget cuts is a concern of teachers and students alike.
The budget cuts have caused an outcry of concern across the educational community for a variety of reasons. The trend from full-time tenured professors to an increase in adjunct professors has raised an issue of apprehension for the future of education, specifically community colleges. This trend is thought to contribute to the risk of compromised educational standards. This is an issue that offers many perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has initiated a campaign to deal with the negative staffing trends in higher education. The initiative called FACE (Faculty and College Excellence) is a campaign that seeks to reverse harmful trends taking place on college campuses. Garza explains that contingent faculty and instructors make up almost 70% of the people teaching in national colleges and universities. Nearly half of all undergraduate public college courses are taught by contingent faculty. The campaign issued a report titled Reversing Course in 2009 which outlines the trends, the issues that cause them and a plan for action. According to their report; the goals of FACE are the following: to achieve full equality in compensation for contingent faculty members; to ensure that 75% of undergraduate classes are taught by full-time tenure and tenur- track faculty; and to open up opportunities for qualified contingent faculty to move into permanent positions as they become available. AFT’s report asks for a call to action. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Call to Action by the AFT’s FACE campaign reflects their view on the need for immediate changes in the trend in higher education staffing. The report makes the following statement in support of their position: “Just as in other professional fields, full-time commitment and professional treatment results in more knowledgeable and better service to students and taxpayers. From doctors to lawyers to aerospace engineers, the public expects to be served by practitioners who are paid professional salaries and have the time and resources needed to do the job. Education is very labor intensive and requires a great deal of interaction with students in and out of the classroom. One probably would not want a doctor who had no medical assistance, no access to computers and no time to read the latest findings in medical journals. Yet, nearly two out of three new faculty hires today are placed in part-time/adjunct or contingent positions that may not pay a decent wage or offer much in the way of professional support.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
According to Garza, students and teachers alike are already seeing impacts of potential budget cuts. “We are already seeing the impact hitting colleges and universities, including lay-offs, cancelled classes, increased class size and higher tuition. These all impact the students, whether it’s having less one-on-one attention in a class that’s bursting at the seams in size or a student having to defer getting a diploma until they are able to take a required class that was cancelled.”  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Higher education leaders such as New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been speaking out loudly in opposition to the proposed budget cuts and their effect on the teaching trends. The trickle down effect they will have on staffing and quality could be detrimental.They claim the impact to higher education and, more specifically, the quality of it would be negatively impacted. It’s not the quantity or quality of individual non-tenured teachers that is in question but rather the quantity and quality that the lack of permanency has on the students. It is a fact that consistency is a measure of success when it comes to learning. Having permanent professors that have a vested interest in the big picture naturally leads to better quality educational services. In no way is the trend or the fight against it a reflection on the quality or the preparedness of the adjunct or fill in professors, rather its about the need for consistency and continuity that full-time permanent professors provides to the structure of the educational system. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It is estimated that in the school year ending 2009, SUNY had 464,981 students enrolled in courses. This number is an increase of about 25,000 enrollees since just the year prior. Higher education institutions are struggling for a way to meet the increase in students and maintain a level of quality on much less funding than ever before. Contingency budgets are being put in to place now, but this is a short term solution. It is estimated that these will last but a year. The budget cuts paint a grim picture for 2010-11 school year. The future for the tenure track may be just as grim.     ……………………………………………………………………..
According to a recent report from NYSUT, it is estimated that adjunct faculty who work only as adjuncts typically earn only $2,500 to $3,000 per course. They frequently have to instruct multiple courses at multiple colleges to make ends meet, unless they have other means of income. These instructors are not offered typical benefits such as unemployment or health insurance and are not guaranteed stable or consistent work from semester to semester. There is a push for legislation that will assure benefits for those non-tenured employees. A lack of reasonable assurance of future employment for part time professors in turn affects the continuity and consistency in the educational systems, in turn affecting students.    ……………………………………………………………………..
Community colleges are already laying the groundwork in preparation for cuts to their educational funding. Colleges have cut extra services, increased classroom size and are coming up with creative ways to generate income. School bookstores and cafeterias on some campuses throughout the state are farming out their services to outside vendors to cut the costs associated with running and staffing these services. Campus faculty have also noted that textbooks are being marked up, which prevents students from being able to afford them. It’s difficult to enroll in overfilled classes meaning it takes longer to graduate. Teachers may prefer a full-time position but accept a part-time one because that’s the only option out there for them. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) in Boston, Mass., is ranked by Community College Week, as in the top 50 fastest growing two-year colleges. This information was issued in a press release on March 12th. Many community colleges across the nation, including BHCC, are facing increased enrollment. According to the release; “From fall 2000 to the current semester, Spring 2010, the Colleges enrollment grew from 6,386 to more than 11,500, an increase of 80 percent.” BHCC has taken measures to meet the demands of increased enrollment. They have hired new faculty, increased the number of tutors, expanded academic support and began a bus shuttle service. Additionally, midnight and late night courses were added to the class schedules in an effort to meet the demand of increased enrollment.   …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Similarly, Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif., announces its goal to meet the changing needs of college students with a plan to establish five new colleges. The two schools currently within the university will become five different distinct colleges. This will allow the ability to add new programs, enhance existing programs and introduce online learning opportunities. The traditional model of learning and teaching is changing and colleges and universities must be prepared and equip to meet those changing needs going forward. This adjustment often means hiring adjunct professors in an effort to meet the changing course offerings unique class schedules, and the overall profile of learning.  ……………………………………………………………………..
Colyn Fiendel a senior at Purchase College in New York will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Design Technology with a concentration in Stage Management. He states, “I might have an interesting position because I went to a conservatory and got my BFA. One of the large selling points of my program was most of the faculty are adjunct professors that teach once a week, because they are working professionals in the business.  I think there is a huge difference in learning from an adjunct professor. In my field specifically, learning from someone currently working is a huge advantage in who you meet and know.  The drawback of course is wishing they had more free time to actually work with us.”
Despite the controversy over adjunct vs. full time and the budget cuts that prevent the option for tenure-track professions, many students appreciate the value that adjunct professors bring to the classroom. “Especially now that I am working in the Broadway community and I already have a reputation, I see how small this world really is, so the fact that I have been slowly involved during my college experience because of my professors helped a lot. It prevented me from moving to New York at 25 and starting from scratch,” states Feindel.  The argument about adjunct vs. full time has never been about the quality of the teaching but rather the continuity that a full-time teaching staff provides to the college and the students.   ……………………………………………………………………..
President John Derry of Hope International University states, “It is to this changing environment that Hope International University is responding as we make these strategic adjustments in our delivery model. We are committed to remaining true to our Mission and Core Values while embracing innovation with excellence. We have been investing significant resources over the past several years in anticipation of this exciting opportunity to continue preparing outstanding leaders to serve in our communities, schools, businesses and churches.” It is possible that the shift from full-time tenure-track to adjunct faculty is meeting the needs of a changing face of educational demands.  …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Governor Paterson proposed a 2010-2011 executive budget that outlines cuts across every area of the state budget; education is not excluded. In fact, this proposal calls for aid to SUNY senior colleges and CUNY resulting in a $143 million in savings on a state fiscal year basis. What will this mean for the future of tenure-track employees? Clearly the future is uncertain.  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
With a need that is increasing and resources decreasing, educational institutions are faced with less than ideal options out of desperation. The reality suggests that the increase in adjunct professors will continue to be on the rise, in part due to budget cuts. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Community colleges continue to be highly vulnerable to the risks associated with changing trends and limited resources.

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