Related Research

Academic staffing trends, a dearth of high touch services, and related issues are finally becoming recognized as having an effect on student success. Below is the beginning of a project to document this research with an online annotated bibliography. We will continue to add to this as we find more research and are able to summarize it, but if we are missing an important piece of research, please let us know.

Benjamin, E. (2002). "How Over-Reliance Upon Contingent Appointments Diminishes Faculty Involvement in Student Learning." Peer Review, 5(1): 4-10.

Benjamin analyzed several recent reports on the effects of contingent faculty on student experiences and outcomes. He addressed findings that contingent faculty, on average, spend fewer hours outside of classes working with students, are less likely to hold office hours, and are more likely to teach lower-level classes. He also discovered that, while younger contingent faculty with more practical experience may be a benefit to more vocational or hands-on disciplines, in those disciplines the number of nontenure-track employees has decreased. Benjamin concluded by distinguishing between cost-saving and cost-efficient, noting that in light of the available evidence, student experience is being sacrificed by a move to a contingent workforce.

Full text is available for free online here.

Bettinger, E. & Long, B.T. (2004). "Do College Instructors Matter? The Effects of Adjuncts and Graduate Assistants on Students' Interests and Success." National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 10370.

In a study of 25,000 first-time freshmen at 12 public four-year universities in Ohio, Bettinger and Long assessed the effect of instruction by adjunct faculty and graduate employees on student course-taking behavior, major choice, and success in subsequent courses. Although contingent faculty had no significant adverse effects on their students' future academic success, students of full-time tenured faculty were more likely to take subsequent classes or choose to major in the subject area.

Both the age of the contingent instructor and his or her subject area influenced the presence and severity of these patterns. Younger contingent instructors (those under 40) produced more prominent negative effects, as did those who taught in the sciences and humanities. However, those who taught in technical and professional fields, such as business and architecture, had a generally positive effect on student outcomes.

Read the abstract for this article here and the full article here.

Bettinger, E. & Long, B.T. (ND). "Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes," Review of Economics and Statistics 92(3): 598–613.

Using a unique dataset with the ability to link student outcomes to faculty characteristics, Bettinger and Long examine how adjunct professors affect subsequent student interest and course performance relative to full-time faculty.

Unlike other research in this area that suggests that the use of adjunct faculty members lowers overall student persistence, the results from this study suggest that adjunct faculty have a small positive effect on student enrollment patterns. This finding is particularly tied to disciplines that are more likely to employ adjunct professors based on professional expertise, such as in education, engineering and the sciences. Students who take courses with these adjunct professors are more likely to take subsequent courses in the subject area and ultimately major in the subject. The authors do point out that these results are not a sufficient, full-scale account of all the costs and benefits associated with adjunct faculty, and further analysis is needed to determine other possible effects that may result, such as the effects of high turnover rates and the distribution of departmental tasks, with which full-time faculty may overburdened.

Full text of the article is available here.

Bound, J., Lovenheim, M. & Turner, S. (2009). "Why have college completion rates declined? An analysis of changing student preparation and collegiate resources." National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 15566

This report finds that institutional resources are much more integral to student success than student preparation. Using the cohorts who graduated from college in 1972 and 1992, the authors of the report use regression analysis to try to determine how a decline in student preparation and in institutional resources affected an observed decline in college completion rates between these two groups. They also seek to decompose the results across institutional types, seeing how student preparation and institutional resources operated at non-top 50 public universities and community colleges (where completion rates declined) and at top-tier public universities and private universities (where completion rates actually increased). Overall, supply-side factors of declining institutional resources and the type of institution where a student began their college career (with lesser-prepared students sorting into less selective institutions) explain the declines much more than declines in student preparation. This pattern is also true for declines in completion rates at non-top 50 public universities. Student preparation holds much more explanatory power for declines in completion rates at community colleges – the researchers caution, however, that their resource measure may not accurately capture the resources at community colleges dedicated to students eventually seeking a four year degree. A final, state-level analysis of public universities ties "demand shock" – increased college enrollments without concomitant increases in resources – to declines in completion rates.

Full text of the report in .pdf format is available here.

Bound, J., Lovenheim, M. & Turner, S. (2010). "Increasing Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the United States." National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 15892

This study suggests that the increase in time-to-degree for a bachelor's degree is concentrated among students who enroll at less competitive four-year public institutions and at community colleges and that ultimately, if you want to decrease the time in which those students graduate, you need to give those students more resources in the form of money. For a full analysis, see Inside Higher Ed's article.

Full text of the study is available here.

Community College Survey of Student Engagement. (2009). "Making connections: dimensions of student engagement."

Students who are engaged with their campus learning communities are more likely to succeed in college, and thisCommunity College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) report documents the numerous ways in which colleges are working to ensure a density of connections between students and their peers, their teachers, and other campus community members. Of particular note in this report is their analysis of part-timeness as a challenge for establishing connections. It not only details the difficulties part-time students have in being engaged in their campus communities, but it also points to the challenges to making connections when the majority of faculty at community colleges are employed part-time. In analyzing faculty at the institutional level (as opposed to at the individual level), CCSSE found that over 40% of part-time faculty members spend zero hours in a typical week advising students, even though advising is one of the most sought after services by students. Even when they approach full-teaching loads, 40% of part-time faculty teaching between 9 and 12 hours a week never advise students. The report points to the necessity of professional development for part-time faculty members and makes the point that professional development opportunities and other engagement opportunities (office hours, advising, etc.) are more likely to be utilized by contingent faculty if they are compensated.

Full text of the report in .pdf format is available here.

Eagan Jr., M.K. & Jaeger, A.J. (2008). "Effects of Exposure to Part-time Faculty on Community College Transfer." Research in Higher Education, No. 0361-0365.

In this study, Eagan Jr. and Jaeger set out to examine the impact of the increased use of part-time faculty at community colleges in order to determine if there is a link between exposure to part-time faculty instruction and a student's chance of transferring out of community college to a four-year college or university. They made use of student transcripts, faculty employment and institutional data from the California community college system, and they tracked student cohorts over a period of five years.

The researchers found a strong correlation between students' exposure to part-time faculty instruction and the likelihood that these students would not transfer to four-year institutions.

Eagan and Jaeger suggest that community colleges need to address issues of availability and satisfaction among part-time faculty as well as reach out to part-time students, which comprise 60% of the transfer-likely student population.

This study is available for a fee through SpringerLink. Help finding the full text of this article is available here.

Ehrenberg, R.L. & Zhang, L. (2004). "Do Tenured and Non-Tenure Track Faculty Matter?"National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 10695.

Examining the effects of increased proportions of part-time and nontenure-track faculty on five- and six-year graduation rates, Ehrenberg and Zhang analyzed time series data from 1988 to 1997 for several two- and four-year institutions throughout the United States. They discovered that, as proportions of full-time nontenured and part-time faculty increased, the graduation rates at these schools decreased. Slightly greater decreases were recorded when more part-time faculty were hired than when more full-time nontenure-track faculty were hired; however, in either situation, effects were greater at public than at private institutions.

While the authors did not explicitly address why public institutions suffer these effects most acutely, their data show that schools with lower proportions of students receiving Pell grants had higher graduation rates overall. Furthermore, Ehrenberg and Zhang found that better faculty-student ratios were associated with higher graduation rates.

The authors also found that a higher proportion of contingent faculty is not associated with greater external research volume for full-time tenure-track faculty. While larger proportions of contingent faculty may be financially lucrative to institutions, these data indicate that students do not reap similar benefits.

Read the abstract of the article here and the full article here.

Ewell, P., Jankowski, N., & Provezis, S. (2010). "Connecting State Policies on Assessment with Institutional Assessment Activity." National Institute on Learning Outcomes Assessment.

This report examines the intersection of the NCHEMS study of state policies on assessment of student learning with the NILOA national survey of assessment activities at institutions of higher education. Not surprisingly, the findings suggest that state policy—acting directly or indirectly—can indeed influence what institutions do in the realm of assessing student learning outcomes. Thanks to this survey, NILOA will explore two issues in particular down the road: (1) What learning outcomes are most pressing and relevant for institutional assessment efforts; and (2) How are or can assessment findings be used to improve student learning?

Full text of the report is available here.

Gross, B. & Goldhaber, D. (2009). "Community College Transfer and Articulation Policies: Looking Beneath the Surface." Center on Reinventing Public Education, Working Paper No. 2009_1.

In this report, Gross and Goldhaber explore the effects of state transfer and articulation policies on community college students, paying particular attention to transfer rates to four-year institutions if such policies exist at their college.

While the findings run counter to the hypothesis that articulation agreements encourage higher transfer rates, another important finding was revealed: there exists a strong correlation between institutions that employ more full-time, tenured faculty and students who transfer from two-year to four-year institutions. For every 10 percent increase in the percent of tenured faculty at a two-year college, the chance that a student will transfer to a four-year college increases by 4 percent.

The full text of this study is available here.

Harrington, C., & Schibik, T. (2001). "Caveat Emptor: Is there a Relationship Between Part-Time Faculty Utilization and Student Learning Retention?" Association for Institutional Research Files On-Line, 91.

In their study of 7,174 first-time full-time freshmen entering a "comprehensive Midwestern university" between 1997 and 2001, Harrington and Schibik sought the relationship between student retention and the use of part-time faculty. They found that more exposure to part-time faculty was significantly associated with lower second-semester retention; that is, those students who took the most credits with part-time faculty fall semester were the least likely to return for spring semester. Furthermore, those students who were most exposed to part-time faculty had the lowest GPAs and attempted the fewest credits.

Harrington and Schibik argued that, in light of this evidence, colleges and universities should be cautious about their use of part-time faculty, and especially cautious about how and where they are used, noting the special vulnerability of lower-achieving first-year students.

Full text is no longer available online. 

Harris, D. & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2010). "The (Un)Productivity of American Higher Education: From "Cost Disease" to Cost Effectiveness. University of Wisconsin at Madison, La Follette School Working Paper No. 2010-023.

In this paper, researchers looked at the relative costs and benefits of popular student success measures, such as reducing student-faculty ratios. What the they found, among other things, is that replacing adjuncts with full-time faculty may be a more effective way of boosting student success than by reducing class sizes. More outreach and student contact were also indicators of higher persistence rates.

Full text of the article is available here.

Holub, T. (2003). "Contract Faculty in Higher Education." ERIC Digest, ED482556.

Holub provided a review of recent data and literature on the increasing reliance on contingent faculty in higher education. She reported that the current hiring trends show decreased opportunities for tenured positions, while contingent positions grow in number, due to reduced federal aid to higher education, new expenses (especially related to technology) and escalating criticisms of tenure as a practice.

According to Holub, several concerns have sprung from this pattern. Many worry that freedom of academic expression is eroding due to diminishing job security. Further, contingent faculty have less time and fewer resources to produce research and advise and mentor students, and they are less likely to be integrated and influential in faculty governance, raising alarm over faculty efficacy and morale.

The full text of this article is available for free online through ERIC Digest.

Hutchings, Pat. (2010). "Opening Doors to Faculty Involvement in Assessment." National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, Occasional Papers #4.

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (commonly referred to as NILOA) frequently releases commissioned papers that examine contemporary issues and inform the academic community of the current state-of-the art of assessing learning outcomes in American higher education. This paper by Pat Hutchings of the Carnegie Foundation takes a hard look at the obstacles to faculty involvement in assessment design and puts forth six recommendations to change course on this front. See our blog post on the report for more information.

Jacoby, Daniel. (2006). "The Effects of Part-Time Faculty Employment on Community College Graduation Rates." Journal of Higher Education, 77(6), 1081-1103.

Studying community colleges, Jacoby discovered that increases in the ratio of part-time faculty have a strong, highly significant negative effect on graduation rates. He found that, although better faculty-to-student ratios resulted in better graduation outcomes overall, students in small classes with contingent faculty were about as successful as students in large classes with full-time tenure-track faculty, suggesting that a high faculty-to-student ratio did not compensate for the negative effects of part-time instructors on graduation outcomes.

Jacoby pointed to decreased student integration as the key negative outcome of high proportions of part-time faculty. Because part-time faculty often lack resources such as private offices, mailboxes, and telephones, they have less incentive and capacity to support students outside of the classroom, a likely cause of decreases in rates of graduation.

The full text of this article is available online through the subscription-only journal collection, Project Muse, although the abstract is available regardless of subscription.

Jaeger, A.J. & Eagan Jr., M.K. (2009). "Unintended Consequences: Examining the Effect of Part-time Faculty Members on Associate's Degree Completion." Community College Review.

Utilizing student transcripts, faculty employment and institutional data from the California community college system, Eagan and Jaeger examined students who aspired to complete an associate's degree in order to discern possible involuntary effects on student drop-out rates as a result of hiring part-time faculty at community colleges.

Based on the results of the study, the researchers found that exposure to part-time faculty members did have a modestly negative effect on a student's chance of completing his or her desired degree. Given the high exposure to part-time instructors (nearly 50% of courses are taught by part-time faculty), community college students are at least 5% less likely to graduate with an associate's degree than are students who take courses with full-time instructors only.

Eagan and Jaeger suggest that community college administrators and policy makers have the ability to change this statistic by giving part-time faculty members more incentives (i.e., employment benefits, integration into the campus), which may result in improved accessibility to students and greater engagement in the classroom.

The full text of this study is available here.

Jaeger, A.J. & Eagan, M.K. (2010). "Examining Retention and Contingent Faculty Use in a State System of Public Higher Education." Educational Policy XX(X), pp. 1-31.

Audrey J. Jaeger of North Carolina State University and M. Kevin Eagan of UCLA have found some important correlations between how institutions employ of contingent faculty – especially in a student's first year of college – and student retention to the second year. Examining six four-year institutions in a state public higher education system, Jaeger and Eagan found that, in general, high levels of exposure to under-supported part-time faculty negatively affected student retention.

Jaeger and Eagan's article make some important contributions to studying the link between how institutions invest (or don't invest) in instructional staff and student success. Significantly, rather than treating "contingent faculty" as a homogenous group, they were able to disaggregate the different gradations within their ranks, looking separately at full-time nontenure faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate assistants. They were also able to look at the effects of contingent faculty on student outcomes at a variety of different institutions: their sample of institutions included doctoral extensive, doctoral intensive, masters, and baccalaureate four-year institutions.

The disaggregation by type of institution yielded an interesting result – the use of part-time faculty at doctoral intensive institutions actually generated positive correlations with student retention. Further investigation uncovered a system of support and development for contingent faculty. These supports, according to the study, included having part-time faculty participate in new faculty orientations and focusing on the challenges that part-time faculty face (such as teaching large lecture courses and lacking knowledge of campus resources to support students). The integration of contingent faculty into the institution, the authors suggest, holds promise for improving student success.

The full text of the article can be found in .pdf format here.

Umbach, P. (2008). "The Effects of Part-time Faculty Appointments on Instructional Techniques and Commitment to Teaching."

Examining the relationship between faculty appointment type (part-time vs. full-time) and instructional practices and commitment to teaching, Umbach found that in terms of their commitment to teaching, part-time faculty spent much less time overall preparing for class and advising students than full-time faculty did. He also determined that these findings vary by college type, with part-time faculty at private institutions spending less time preparing for class than part-timers at public schools, and part timers at MSIs (minority serving institutions) spending more time preparing than part-timers at PWIs (predominately white institutions).

In conducting his research, Umbach utilized the 2001 HERI Faculty Survey (a sample of 20,616 faculty members, 16% of which hold part-time appointments) and reviewed faculty members' active learning techniques, the goal of educating the preparing citizen, and the inclusion of diversity in instruction.

Umbach suggests that administrators should be more reasonable in their expectations of part-time faculty and should provide them with the proper support structures and evaluation processes to guarantee faculty effectiveness.

Full text of this study is available online for free here.

Umbach, P. (2007). "How Effective Are They? Exploring the Impact of Contingent Faculty on Undergraduate Education," The Review of Higher Education, Winter 2007, Volume 30, No. 2, pp. 91-123.

As the title suggests, the purpose of Umbach's study is to explore how the use of contingent faculty impacts on undergraduate education. He focuses specifically on three areas: to what degree do contingent faculty engage students, what effect does the proportion of contingent faculty on a campus have on the frequency that faculty engage in good practices, and does the effect of having a contingent appointment vary between institutions?

The results indicate that that contingent faculty, particularly part-time faculty, do not have the same time and resources to do their work when compared with their tenured and tenure-track counter parts. Contingent faculty have less time to interact with students, have fewer opportunities to use active and collaborative learning techniques, and have less time to prepare for class. The author also points to the conditions in which contingent faculty work—low wages, lack of professional support, and work environments that tend to marginalize part-time faculty—as factors that compound the problem, suggesting that is incumbent on university administrations to provide the support structures necessary to make contingent faculty able to succeed in the classroom, if they are to continue to rely on them to provide instruction to their students.

Full text of this study is available the the subscription-only service Project Muse.

Umbach, P. & Wawrzynsky, M. (2005). "Faculty Do Matter: The Role of College Faculty in Student Learning and Engagement," Research in Higher Education, Vol. 46, No. 2.

Using two national data sets (the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and a similar survey used for a parallel study that assesses the behaviors and attitudes of faculty), this study explores the relationship between faculty practices and student engagement.

The findings suggest that "faculty do matter"—faculty behaviors and attitudes dramatically affect student learning and engagement, which suggests that faculty play the single-most important role in student learning. Colleges and universities need to find ways to support faculty so that they are capable of using active and collaborative learning techniques, which have the greatest success in engaging students and, ultimately, ensuring student success. The most successful environments for faculty to accomplish this are those in which they have job security and academic freedom, to start.

Full text of the article is available here.