New report outlines negative effects of hiring practices on student-faculty interaction.

hiring-practicesA new report emphasizes the importance of faculty and student interaction, noting its critical influence on student success, but also warns of a number of trends decreasing the potential for this interaction.

The report, Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?, comes from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education.

As noted in an array of research studies cited in the report, interaction with faculty increases students’ completion rates and grades, boosts leadership and critical thinking skills, increases aspirations, and promotes engagement.

But four trends are having a negative impact on students and faculty in higher education institutions across the nation. The trends are a result of new hiring policies, and their impact is far-reaching, some say.

Those trends, as identified by faculty across the nation, are:

1. Temporary teaching forces and the elimination of full-time faculty positions

“In part to cut costs, administrators for decades have been replacing full-time, permanent (tenure-track) faculty with part-time faculty on temporary contracts,” according to the report.

2. Undermining the effectiveness of student-faculty interaction in the classroom

“Current salary and hiring practices in our nation’s colleges and universities simply do not foster the stable faculty workforce students need,” the authors write.

3. Greater spending on management and less spending on students and faculty

“As a study by the Delta Cost Project shows, the relative weight of investments in colleges and universities has shifted with instruction and related spending actually declining in recent years,” the authors note.

“What has risen as a priority is spending on administration and related activities. This priority is reflected in increases in the numbers of administrative positions, increases in those salaries, and increases in the percentage of college budgets going to these functions.”

“Less money is spent on instruction and more is spent supporting administrative expenses. What we’re also seeing is growth of administrators, and we’re seeing faster salary growth for administrative pay. We’ve seen a real shift in priorities,” said Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, a just-retired professor of economics at Wright State University in Ohio and current national president of the American Association of University Professors, during a call to discuss the report with media. “As the report points out, this has dramatic consequences on the quality of students’ educational experiences.”

4. Steep decline in teaching salaries in spite of teachers going into debt to get their degrees

“Because of low salaries and the common practice of hiring faculty on part-time contracts, even a modicum of economic security has become shaky for many, and for others, impossible. This change in economic status has had major ramifications…,” according to the report.

“The remarkable irony is that as students and families pay more and more for college and are accruing greater and grater debt, less money is being spent on instruction,” said Gary D. Rhoades, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education. “It’s a decades-long trend. This is an industry-wide trend of disinvestment in the people who matter most to students–the faculty.”

Laura Ascione

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