2020 Key Indicators Tool Tracks Modest Decline in Part-Time Faculty

CIC recently released the latest edition of the Key Indicators Tool (KIT). This long-standing benchmarking service provides CIC member institutions with customized five-year-trend data reports on 20 institutional performance indicators related to student enrollment and progression, faculty composition and compensation, tuition revenue and financial aid, and institutional resources and expenditures. This year’s KIT reports were based on data from fall 2018, the most recent available.

The 2020 reports show a modest decline in the share of part-time faculty at small and mid-sized independent colleges and universities. The report tracks a slight drop in the national median (or 50th percentile) for the percentage of part-time faculty employed at baccalaureate and master’s-level institutions, with the number decreasing from 24.7 percent in fall 2017 to 23.4 percent in 2018.

When broken out by Carnegie Classification, data analyzed in the new KIT report show similar modest declines from fall 2017 to 2018, except for master’s-level institutions with a larger number of graduate programs, which showed no change (see figure below). Baccalaureate arts and sciences colleges consistently have the lowest share of part-time faculty, ranging from 11 to 12 percent over the five years analyzed by the report, while master’s-level universities tend to have levels of 30 percent or higher.

Much has been made about the “adjunctification of the faculty” across higher education—the increasing reliance on part-time or adjunct faculty members to fill vital teaching roles. “Large public universities and community colleges have had significant increases in the number of part-time and non-tenure-track faculty members as a way to cut costs. However, many smaller private colleges pride themselves in fielding full-time, tenure-track faculty members in the classroom and tout this as a marker of higher educational quality,” remarked Harold V. Hartley III, CIC senior vice president.

A 2016 report by CIC, Changes in Faculty Composition at Independent Colleges, found that increases in part-time faculty members at CIC institutions were largely in graduate, online, degree-completion, and emerging programs. The report also noted that “most traditional on-campus undergraduate programs remain staffed by full-time, tenure-line, or long-term contract faculty members.”

First distributed in 2004, the annual KIT benchmarking reports draw on the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Both the KIT and its companion Financial Indicators Tool (FIT) benchmarking report are prepared in collaboration with the Austen Group with generous financial support from Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL). CIC will release the latest version of the FIT report in fall 2020.

View more information about KIT and other CIC benchmarking services or contact Hartley at hhartley@cic.nche.edu.

Percent of Part-Time Faculty at Baccalaureate and Master’s-Level Independent Colleges and Universities

Line graph depicting percent of part-time faculty at institutions by Carnegie classification
Notes: Data in figure are presented as medians using 2018 Basic Carnegie Classifications. n=672. Definition: Full-time equivalent (FTE) for part-time instructional faculty as a percentage of total instructional faculty FTE.

Source: Council of Independent Colleges 2020 Key Indicators Tool.