Chart of the Week…

This from the U.S. Department of Education’s upcoming “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2009” report on U.S. college and university hiring:

It’s taken from “Tenure, RIP: What the Vanishing Status Means for the Future of Education“, from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Money quotes as follows:

Now that tenure is disappearing across higher education, you don’t hear the same kind of debates. What people in higher education do talk about is whether the system that has grown over the last 20 years—heavy on adjunct professors who are paid as little as $1,500 per course—is what educators would have designed if the destruction of tenure had been more purposeful. The universal answer to that question appears to be: No.

“To think the way some of the finest higher-education institutions in the nation educate students is with gypsy adjuncts who have to teach at two to three different places, that would not have been what you would have wanted,” says Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. “You want faculty with a vested interest in the institution.”

According to [Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors], though, the biggest loss isn’t what professors can’t say in the classroom. It’s what they don’t say to the president or the trustees—or to politicians. “The president doesn’t really care what you say in your World War II-history class,” says Mr. Nelson. “You can say what you want to about your subject matter, but don’t think you can say what you want to about the president’s edicts.” Indeed, what’s disappearing along with tenure, say its advocates, is the ability of professors to play a strong role in running their universities and to object if they think officials are making bad decisions.

In other words, the major effect of tenure’s growing scarcity is that the power to make educational decisions at the heart of the school is increasingly consolidated into the hands of administrators, who may boast greater experience in business school than in the fields over which they are given authority.  Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

More relevant to us, I suppose, is the following passage:

Vanishing tenure may be bad for students as well as teachers. A couple of dozen studies over the last decade have shown that as the proportion of professors off the tenure track rises, the proportion of students who return to college the following year and eventually graduate declines. Some researchers [. . .] say that may be because contingent instructors typically lack teaching resources, including offices, supplies, or professional-development opportunities.

In other words, what is the impact of this increased reliance on contract faculty upon schools’ rates of retention?  Graduation?  Student satisfaction?  Alumni funding?

In short, if educational decisions are based upon fiscal criteria, what is the impact of that model upon both a) the colleges’ success in fulfilling their educational mission, and b) their fiscal health?

Presumably, postsecondary schools rely on adjunct labour to save money.  Presumably, they have saved money by implementing this policy, which accounts for its enlargement.  So, postponing any consideration of the educational impact until an upcoming post, let’s instead ask this question for now:

Are the schools richer than they used to be?


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