Faculty group decries findings on higher ed spending trends

By: | Issue: November, 2015
October 21, 2015

Colleges and universities have made spending on administrators and part-time instructors a higher priority than raising salaries of core faculty members who have the biggest impact on learning, says a new report from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education.

Heavier teaching loads for professors combined with increased use of adjunct faculty reduces the amount of time all instructors can spend with students, the faculty-driven organization’s report says.

This interaction plays a major role in student success. “Students don’t know who their provosts are, they don’t care who the deans are but they really care who their professors are,” Gary Rhodes, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, said at a news conference. “There has been a dramatic, decades-long trend of disinvestment in the people who are teaching, advising and counseling students at the same time students are paying more and more for their educations.”

  • According to the report: In 1990, the faculty at U.S. colleges and non-research universities was twice as large as the administration; by 2010, the numbers had become roughly equal.
  • In 1969, three-quarters of faculty at U.S. colleges and universities were tenured or tenure-track. That number dropped to just above one-quarter in 2013.

“We’re seeing faster salary growth for administrative pay, starting with presidents who are now paid in many ways as if they were CEOs,” said Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors and a former Wright State University economics professor.

Though public perception blames faculty salaries for rising tuition, full-timers’ pay has increased only by about 3 percent over the last decade, he said.

Part-time instructors receive an average $3,000 per class and rarely have time to hold office hours. At institutions with higher numbers of adjuncts, students have lower GPAs, graduate at lower rates and are less likely to choose a major, said Adrianna Kezar, a professor of higher education at the University of Southern California and associate director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis.

“We commonly assume that teachers matter in K12 but suddenly, when students get to college, we no longer think teachers are valuable,” Kezar said. “We’re making the wrong choices with our money, and our priorities are misguided.”