Adjunct professor status at NJ colleges debated

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Responding to a growing trend among colleges and universities to rely more heavily on the use of adjunct professors rather than employing regular, full-time professors, Sen. Richard Codey reached out to ten New Jersey higher education institutions last year to examine the scale of the issue. Of the eight institutions that responded to Codey’s request for information, an average of about 40 percent of all professors at seven colleges were full-time faculty.

The universities include Rutgers, Stockton, Rowan, William Patterson, NJIT, Montclair, Kean, and New Jersey City University. The College of New Jersey and Ramapo College did not respond to Codey’s inquiry.

According to Codey, Rutgers, Stockton, and NJIT did have more full-time faculty members than adjuncts. Codey noted, however, that the number of full-time faculty members was not significantly higher than the number of adjuncts.

Codey told LocalSource that he believes that the decreasing number of full-time professors will have negative repercussions for students. “It used to be that students could walk into their professor’s office and have a conversation, or bump into them at an event,” said Codey. “You could run into them in many places, and that all adds to the attraction of college.”

Codey said that the ability for universities to pay far less for adjuncts is a big part of the new trend. “Instead of hiring full-time faculty and investing in professors that truly become a part of the college community and fully engage with their students to provide them with the full breadth of educational services that they deserve, colleges and universities across New Jersey are turning to hiring adjunct staff which often cost the institution much less,” said Codey. “This is an alarming trend that is spiraling out of control, and will have negative consequences on the education of our students.”

According to Codey, Kean University had the fewest number of full-time faculty members, with only six percent of all professors as full-time. “The worst offender was Kean University,” said Codey.

Codey said that Kean disagrees with the figures that he cites, but that he is undeterred. “I feel like I’m dead right and I’m moving ahead,” said Codey.

Codey also pointed out that data that Kean offers to refute his figures is data that the university puts out themselves.

Indeed, the data seems to substantiate Codey’s findings. An employee profile page out of the Office of Institutional Research at Kean shows that the university employs a total of 406 full-time faculty members, compared with 1,109 adjuncts. More interesting, though, is the fact noted at the bottom of the page — that the number of full-time faculty members cited as part of Kean’s statistics includes faculty at the university’s Wenzhou, China campus. “Note: Kean Wenzhou numbers are included,” reads the university’s faculty profile page, written in what can only be described as infinitesimal-sized font.

Kean told LocalSource that it would not comment on the record.
Data out of Montclair shows that they employ 604 full-time faculty compared with 1,210 part-time faculty members. NJCU reports a number of 241 full-time faculty compared with 528 part-time and adjunct members. Rowan shows statistics of 395 full-time faculty members compared with 917 part-time faculty.

One of Codey’s biggest criticisms concerns pay. “Adjunct professors are paid a pittance to teach classes compared to their full-time counterparts,” said Codey. “They often resort to teaching several courses, sometimes at different colleges and universities, to make ends meet and are constantly forced to rush to get to their next class. And it’s the students that suffer because office hours are limited or nonexistent with adjuncts, and therefore students can’t get the extra help or support they might need,” he said.

Codey said that while full-time professors were once a constant on college campuses, things have changed. “Years ago, it wasn’t unusual for students to run into their professors in the cafeteria, at theater events or at athletic events,” Codey maintains. “Now, at Adjunct University, students barely run into their professors in the parking lot as they rush to get to their next job elsewhere. It seems the number of full-time professors at our state’s colleges and universities is falling, and the educational value to our students is being sacrificed in the process, all the while the costs for them continue to rise. There is something wrong with this picture.”

Codey said that he has reached out to the Senate chairs and the Higher Education Committee, and will continue to engage in dialogue to address what he describes as a “disturbing trend.”

But according to Michael Klein, Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, senior public colleges and universities are transparent about the composition of their faculty.

The New Jersey College Student and Parent Consumer Information Act, enacted in 2010, requires the four-year public institutions of higher education in the state to publicly provide information on faculty, including the percentage of faculty employed as tenured professors, full-time, non-tenured professors, and adjunct or visiting professors. In addition, under the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994, all public colleges and universities in the state must file an annual report on the condition of the institution that includes a faculty profile, including the ratio of full to part-time faculty members, and major research and public service activities.

Klein asserts that the data paints a different picture than what Codey has reported. “Significantly for students, the majority of courses at New Jersey’s senior public colleges and universities are taught by full-time faculty,” Klein told LocalSource. “Equally important, the percentage of courses taught by full-time faculty has not changed significantly over the past five years.”

Klein said that in 2010, 59 percent of courses at senior public colleges were taught by full-time faculty, with a breakdown of 51 percent tenured or tenure-track, eight percent full-time non-tenure track, 33 percent part-time, and seven percent teaching staff or teaching assistants. In 2015, 55 percent of courses were taught by full-time faculty, with a breakdown of 45 percent tenured or tenure-track, 10 percent full-time non-tenure track, 35 percent by part-time, and 10 percent teaching staff or teaching assistants.

In 2010, 46 percent of faculty were full-time, 44 percent were part-time, and 10 percent were teaching staff or teaching assistants. In 2015, 43 percent of the faculty were full-time, 43 percent part-time, and 14 percent teaching staff or teaching assistants.

While Klein concedes that there appears to be a slight trend toward hiring more part-time faculty at public colleges and universities, he cites a cut in state appropriations as a significant part of this trend. “Between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016, the state cut the operating appropriations to the traditional state colleges and universities over $14 million, about 7.3 percent,” said Klein. “Over that same time period, New Jersey had the 11th-highest percentage increase in full-time equivalent enrollment at public institutions. The number of state-funded positions at the institutions — for which the state pays fringe benefits — did not increase over this time period. The institutions held the line on tuition and fees. The senior public colleges and universities had the fifth-lowest percentage increase in in-state tuition and fees between 2010 and 2015. To extend their resources while serving more students, some institutions hired more part-time faculty,” he said.

Warren Sandmann, provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at William Paterson University, told LocalSource that the data Codey cites is not an accurate portrayal, and that the issue is far more involved.

According to Sandmann, full-time faculty are contractually required to teach eight courses per year, while adjuncts are required to teach just one. “It’s not the number of faculty that’s key,” said Sandmann. “It’s the number of classes being taught by faculty members.”

Sandmann said that the most recent data out of WPU shows that in the 2014-2015 academic year, full-time faculty members taught 54.2 percent of credit hours, compared to about 46 percent of credit hours taught by adjuncts. “The majority of full-time credit hours are taught by full-time faculty,” Sandmann said. “We have increased our full-time faculty from 380 to 406 in the last six years.”

Sandmann maintains that while adjuncts do get paid less than their full-time counterparts, their job requirements are far different. “If you get to the economics of it, there’s no question that adjunct faculty get paid less than full-time faculty members,” said Sandmann. “But full-timers provide research, service to the community — while that is not required of adjuncts. Adjuncts come in and teach. They can be brought in to teach a specialized course. Full-timers have extra elements. The comparison is not accurate.”

Sandmann noted that adjunct faculty often come with unique work and hands-on experience in their specific fields that adds much to the educational experience of their students.

NJIT, who was not on the list of universities who employ more adjuncts, had 540 full-time professors, including 410 tenured faculty and lecturers, and 130 adjuncts as of 2015. “At NJIT, the vast majority of teaching is conducted by full-time faculty,” NJIT president Joel S. Bloom told LocalSource. “Well over 75 percent of the courses are taught by full-time faculty with less than 15 percent taught by adjuncts. Given NJIT’s very applied and technical curriculum it is necessary, at times, to employ adjunct faculty to teach courses that are best taught by people who are doing the work in real-time, in the field. However, the trend and very strong preference at NJIT is to hire full-time faculty to teach our students — undergraduates through Ph.D. candidates — and we will continue to do so as we grow NJIT enrollment, faculty-led research and service to our community.”

According to Erika Bleiberg, spokesperson for Montclair University, part-time faculty taught 43.2 percent of courses at Montclair in 2014. Bleiberg said that decreased state funding is directly responsible the decreasing number of full-time faculty. “ The constraint in hiring more full-time faculty is directly attributed to declining state operating support for public higher education,” Bleiberg told LocalSource. “In FY2006, Montclair State received about $50.3 million from the state in direct operating support to educate 16,063 students. In FY2016, we received about $35.8 million to educate 20,465 students. Over that time, total student semester hours increased from 188,070 to 259,012–an increase of 26.8 percent,” she said.

Bleiberg said that keeping full-time faculty is a priority at the school. “Hiring a new group of full-time faculty each year is our very first budgetary priority because we feel it’s critically important to keep our full-time faculty continually refreshed with new scholars and scientists,” said Bleiberg. “For fall 2016, we have hired 25 new tenure-track faculty, and during the coming academic year will have 36 tenure track searches under way.”

But Bleiberg maintains that adjunct and part-time faculty have much to offer their students. “It’s important to note that some fields such as the arts and business benefit greatly by having instruction by working professionals who share expertise as part-time adjuncts,” she said.

Pam Hersh, Director of Communications for NJASCU and a board member at Mercer Community College, told LocalSource that adjuncts play a unique role on campus, particularly when it comes to career training. “It is my experience that adjuncts are particularly valuable for teaching skill-specific courses or job-specific courses where the adjunct has years of work-related experience,” said Hersh. “In an era of workforce and job emphasis, adjuncts play a great role in teaching one or two classes relating to job training. Also, adjuncts are used for non-credit courses for students who are not seeking degrees but seeking to improve job skills and their marketability in the workplace,” she said.

Klein agrees. “Adjunct faculty are dedicated and valued members of the state college and university communities, and I believe their relationships with their students are strong ones,” said Klein. “It is unfair to adjunct professors to equate their faculty status with the quality of the education they provide. Adjunct faculty are experts in their fields, and they provide authoritative knowledge to their students.”

COMMENTS

4 Responses to "Adjunct professor status at NJ colleges debated"

  1. Paul Casey   June 12, 2016 at 11:38 am

    This does seem to be a trend in higher education. I would suggest also looking at the numbers at community colleges in NJ.

  2. Kathleen Tasco   June 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Our educational world had changed drastically, however,like every other institute including our government ,it comes down to money. Those in power provide themselves with a lovely life style and care little about the real issues at hand .Every where we see power bringing prestige and tagging right along is corruption. Adjunct professor at Union County College

  3. Kathy W   June 13, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    The low pay is not commensurate of the work performed. Adjuncts bring experience and should be paid for it. Adjuncts need to be paid what FT get for extra classes; anything else is unfair labor practice. Colleges blame state funding. Yet they increase staff by 50% in the last 4 years and bloat the administration numbers and pay. Adjunct=Exploitation and disrespect. Adjuncts aren’t required to teach just one course, that is all they are allowed to teach. About time this inequity gets some attention. Look at community colleges, you’ll find even more egregious offending.

  4. CBG   June 16, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    It would also be interesting to note what is being done financially at the administrative level