Findings in New TIAA Institute Study Counter Common Perceptions of Adjunct Faculty in Higher Education

Originally Published by TIAA.

Insight into the demographics, employment experience, career satisfaction and position preferences of adjunct faculty at colleges and universities across the country was released today by the TIAA Institute. The 2018 Adjunct Faculty Survey study revealed that the majority of adjunct faculty are over the age of 40 and primarily teach at a single college or university, countering common perceptions that faculty is younger and teach at multiple colleges while pursuing a tenure-track position.

“Adjunct faculty are an increasingly significant segment of the academic workforce, making them a critical component of the higher education sector,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Head of the TIAA Institute. “This study provides insights to leaders at colleges and universities across the country to help them make informed decisions about faculty engagement strategies at their institutions.”

More than 500 adjunct faculty participated in this study. Other key findings include:

  • The majority (56 percent) of adjunct faculty have their master’s degree. One-third have attained their doctorate.
  • Approximately one-half (52 percent) teach one or two courses at a single college or university. Only 22 percent of adjunct faculty teach three or more classes at two or more institutions.
  • One half (50 percent) of adjunct faculty would prefer to have a tenure-track position. Ten percent would prefer to have a full-time, non-tenured position. Only one-quarter prefer an adjunct position.

The study uncovered a correlation between career satisfaction and higher household income, but not with average pay per course. Adjunct faculty are paid an average of $3,000 per course; however, the majority (60 percent) are paid below the average. In addition, there appears to be a link between career satisfaction and the age of an adjunct faculty member, as well as highest degree of education attained. Younger adjunct faculty, those under age 40, and adjunct faculty members that hold a doctorate degree both report higher levels of dissatisfaction with their academic careers.

The 2018 Adjunct Faculty Survey was presented at the 2018 Fellows Symposium by TIAA Senior Economist Paul Yakoboski. The symposium also featured presentations by prominent thought leaders on the following topics:

  • Academic Workforce Flexibility and Strategic Outcomes in Four-year Colleges and Universities, James Hearn, University of Georgia, TIAA Institute Fellow
  • Promoting Student Success in Adjunct-taught Courses, Adrianna Kezar, University of Southern California, TIAA Institute Fellow
  • Rethinking the Faculty Workforce Model at the University of Denver, Gregg Kvistad, University of Denver, TIAA Institute Fellow
  • Observations and Lessons from the Consolidation of Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College, Risa Palm, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Georgia State University, TIAA Institute Fellow
  • 2018 P-Fin Index and Millennial Financial Literacy, Andrea Hasler, GFLEC, The George Washington University
  • Financial literacy and Brand Awareness: A Case Study of Indiana University Graduate Students, Jason Seligman, Investment Company Institute
  • Factors Influencing Employee’s Choice of Retirement Benefit Plan, Robert Toutkoushian, University of Georgia

To view the full results of the 2018 Adjunct Faculty Survey, please click here

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