College adjuncts: Good for the bottom line, but how about for students?
by Michael Riley
You send your children off to college, expecting them to sit in classes taught by wise professors, with office hours and a chance to develop a teacher-student relationship.
Well, odds are, your budding scholar will be taught by an adjunct professor of some sort — a graduate student teaching assistant, a professional with a full-time job or someone brought in to teach a course here and there at one campus, while teaching two or three more at another one.
While it improves the bottom line for colleges and universities, the impact of having so many part timers in college classrooms and lecture halls raises the question: Is such a shift beneficial to students?
College administrators often point to the cost savings that come from nontenured and part-time faculty, which helps keep tuition down. They also say that part-time faculty provide the college with the flexibilty to meet the changing needs and desires of students.
Faculty unions say otherwise. An ever-rotating roster of part-time faculty or even faculty who are hired full time for a year or two need orientation and training, and those costs add up over time. And with a
constantly growing student body, all in need of the introductory courses most often taught by adjuncts, more full-time tenured professors would still allow for flexibility in assigning faculty.
But their main complaint is that part-time faculty generally cannot make themselves fully available to their students, nor fully integrate into the life of the institution.