Researchers Say Lack of Wage Data Clouds Debate Over Part-Time Faculty Members
The absence of nationwide data on what individual colleges pay adjunct faculty members makes it impossible to answer key questions raised in the debate over higher education’s growing reliance on them, according to an article published by the American Association of University Professors in the latest issue of its magazine, Academe.
Until such data are available, it will not be possible to assess the validity of arguments dealing with the impact of changes in part-time faculty members’ wages on supply and demand in the faculty labor market, says the article, which was written by Teresa Tam, an analysts for the Government Accountability Office, and Daniel Jacoby, acting assistant chancellor for institutional research at the University of Washington at Bothell.
Among the questions the authors see as unanswerable are whether raising the pay of part-time faculty members leads to a decline in the supply of adjunct jobs and whether unionization improves the wages of part-time faculty members.
Ms. Tam and Mr. Jacoby based their analysis on an examination of all of the available data on wages for part-time faculty members. One of the most fundamental problems they identified is that there is no standard definition of “part-time faculty member,” and colleges vary widely in how they use the term.
In crunching the numbers provided by individual colleges to try to calculate what they pay adjuncts, the authors concluded that some colleges so badly understate the number of part-timers on their payrolls — in some cases, by counting only those considered on the tenure track or part of the permanent faculty — that federal estimates of the adjunct labor supply based on college-reported data are likely to be way off the mark. —Peter Schmidt