‘Who Needs Faculty?’ Analyzes Costs of Higher Ed Hiring Trends


A recent report released by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education suggests that recent trends are showing a decrease in the amount of interaction faculty are able to have with their students, often in the ways that matter most.

The report, “Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?” looks at the effects that a number of recent educational trends are playing on student success.  Researchers suggest that there has been a recent disinvestment in faculty among colleges and universities that is causing a reduction in academic success for students, particularly for students of color, low-income students and first-generation students.  This disinvestment comes in the form of lower salaries and a reliance on part-time faculty positions.

According to the authors, many schools are beginning to heavily rely on part-time professors, some of whom hold multiple jobs and may not even be teaching at the school the following semester.  Meanwhile, others look to online courses that offer little interaction with faculty members, or in some cases, none at all.

All of this means that faculty members are spending less time with students, which is causing a reduction in student achievement as students are continually left to their own devices to succeed.  The authors write that a number of studies over the years have found the interaction between faculty and students to be one of the most important differences in the lives of students, which plays a significant role in their success.

A recent overview by Adrianna Kezar and Dan Maxey suggest that an increase in faculty interaction results in higher student completion rates, better grades and standardized test scores, as well as increased feelings of self-confidence and capability of completing college.  Faculty interactions were also found to raise student motivation, improve communication skills, and promote student engagement while instilling a love of learning.

However, colleges and universities are increasingly focused on cost savings which do not take into account the full effect of the practices they suggest.

Researchers posit that a shift in priorities in necessary in order to increase student achievement and to allow faculty members to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

“The purpose of this paper is not to ignore the budget challenges and the push for innovation that has produced this change, but to emphasize the importance of evaluating policies and practices more thoroughly and more critically than is currently the case. Too often practices promoted as ways to broaden access, lower costs, and foster “scalability” are not scrutinized for their potential downsides or long-term consequences—especially for particular groups of students.”