As adjunct professors become more common throughout higher education, the quality of a student’s education may be slipping without them even realizing it or understanding the differences between full time and adjunct faculty. Adjunct instructors are faculty members who are not full-time employees of the school that they teach at, who are often paid much less than full time members, while also not receiving employment benefits. In many cases this can result in the part time faculty not being as available to students, unable to be present on campus and lend the help that some students may need. Although adjunct teachers may be cost effective for a school’s bottom line, the normalization of the practice in higher education is lowering the quality of education offered to students, while tuition continues to increase.
While many adjunct teachers are skilled at what they do and would love to invest more time into their students, without the resources to do so it is impossible, regardless of how passionate the teacher is for their students’ success. If a part time teacher has to worry about how to get food on the table for their family on a regular basis, it will directly impact their teaching. According to a survey published by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce in 2012, “the median per-course pay was about $2,700, or $24,000 per year as a full-time-equivalent employee.” It’s important to note that this statistic is a median of many different types of schools, and that in community colleges the pay can be even lower, with many part time faculty members facing poverty level incomes resulting in the need for multiple jobs, and less time.
Another problem that occurs with large levels of adjunct faculty is the lack of consistency for students. A valuable part of college for students can often be the relationships you form with professors. Mentorship can play a major role in the college experience and can make a big impact with a student’s education. However, with the economics of part time teachers these mentorships are never able to take place in many situations. Adjunct faculty jobs are almost never guaranteed to persist year after year, not to mention that teachers often have to change schools on a regular basis just to make a decent living.
The increase of part time teachers in academia could very well have large negative impacts for higher education all together if these practices continue to increase. While students may not always know whether or not their instructor is part time, the repercussions can be felt. Lack of communication, less feedback on coursework, and little time for contact. These are coming at a direct cost to the quality of student’s education.