Community colleges, sometimes the home of higher education’s most vulnerable students, hire part-time teachers as a majority of their faculties. A study from the Center for Community College Engagement , says Paul Fain of Inside Higher Ed, has found that “contingent” instructors make up 53% of community college faculties nationwide. This, when community college students, who need encouragement, access,and sometimes extra instruction, are most in need of full-time, fully engaged teachers. Not only the students, but the part-time faculty as well, are challenged by this finding.
Part-time instructors typically earn less and receive little if anything by way of benefits such as health insurance. As a result they have become a “fundamental feature of the model that sustains” community colleges, the report said. That’s because as public funding covers ever-smaller portions of their budgets, two-year institutions have cut costs by hiring more contingent faculty.
The report states that part-time instructors are being marginalized. This unseen majority of instructors are often excellent teachers, but their working conditions harm them and possibly their students. In some cases, part-timers are notified of the classes they will teach only weeks before school commences. They are not able to spend as much time on planning for their classes as full-time instructors can.
“Their access to orientation, professional development, administrative and technology support, office space and accommodations for meeting with students typically is limited, unclear or inconsistent,” the report said. “Moreover, part-time faculty have infrequent opportunities to interact with peers about teaching and learning.”
There are community colleges that are attempting to hurdle these barriers by providing working spaces, computers, access to student records, and even lockers for part-time faculty members. Some are paying the contingents for hours spent in training in support of major college initiatives.
A special report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, entitled “Contingent Commitments, Bringing Part-Time Faculty into Focus”, enumerates methods for including part-time faculty into the “life of the college community”. Included in the report are needs expressed by the contingent faculties across the nation. Concerns included: part-time faculty and student engagement, allocation of time in the classroom, orientation methods for new hires, professional development, evaluation and incentives.