Avoiding Part-Time Professors

When you are researching colleges, be sure to ask this question:

What percentage of professors are part time?

At many schools, the percentage is going to be high.  I’ll explain why you should care in a minute, but first here are some startling statistics from the Association of American Colleges and Universities about tenured professors:

  • Tenured college professors now represent less than one-third of today’s faculty.
  • Over the next decade, 40% to 60% of college professors will retire.
  • Among full-time faculty, 32% of teachers are not on the tenure track.
  • More than 50% of new full-time hires are not on the tenure track.
  • About 80% of part-time and  67% of full-time non-tenure track professors don’t hold doctorates.

Why should you care?

Studies have shown that freshmen are more likely to drop out of school if part-time professors are teaching their classes and, in particular, introductory classes. Part-timers trying to make a living must run from campus to campus to pay the bills, which means office hours are rare or non existent to help struggling kids.

Research also suggests that professors, including those with tenure, are less likely to put as much effort into teaching when there are many part-time teachers on campus. Strange but true!

When colleges mistreat part-time professors with zero job security, low pay and no resources, it ultimately hurts students.

Bottom Line:  When evaluating a school, ask about the use of part-time teachers in introductory courses and also in your intended major. The fewer part-time teachers, the better.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

Learn More:

Why College Professors Are Failing Students

College Visit: 31 Questions You Need to Ask

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