My Thoughts On Declining Enrollment, Adjunct Faculty And The Need To Have A Terminal Degree In Order To Work Full Time in Higher Education

My Thoughts On Declining Enrollment, Adjunct Faculty And The Need To Have A Terminal Degree In Order To Work Full Time in Higher Education

The following responses were written by me on facebook in response to the current trends we are experiencing in higher education — Declining enrollment and increase in adjunct faculty in colleges and universities. 

This article is a collection of questions and answers about the former… Here we go.

1. On the argument that students should pursue technical training instead of a college degree…

Almeida’s response, “…College professors who are paying attention to the upcoming trend (declining enrollment) are aware of the threats. Although there are other ways to win, I’m still a firm believer in a college degree even for kids who aren’t made for college, as many say. They can learn to be with good guidance, for the most part. Kids who are good with their hands, for example, tend to fit well in careers in studio production in our field of communication. I’m afraid that the jobs of the future will require a BS as a requisite, handicapping those who don’t fit the criteria.

2.Why is education so expensive?

Almeida’s response, “…States must grant more appropriations to public schools and the private universities should have stronger offices of institutional advancement along with a charismatic president who is able to fundraise in order to operate to capacity and offer a more affordable price of education to students. In my book, no university employee should make more that 150 thousand dollars a year. We work in higher education for the love of serving others not to maximize profit. At least, this is how so see it.”

3. Who is making that?

Almeida’s response, “…Presidents of colleges, with rare exceptions, often make 250K or higher sometimes reaching a salary in the 500K. VP’s often bring home 200K home as well, followed by Deans in the upper 160K range. In some institutions, professors are bringing home 150-170K a year for a yearly salary. Adjunct salaries vary from institution to institution. In my book, we need to be careful to not have such high administrative overhead and faculty salaries in order to keep tuition prices to a reasonable price for students. By the way, football coaches in colleges and universities make a fortune.”

4. Should schools hire full-time faculty? If it isn’t possible, what can we do to complement a body of faculty? 

Almeida’s response, “…Well, I agree with you that hiring full time faculty is more beneficial than operating an academic unit using a set number of adjunct faculty members. I’m in favor of bringing artists in residence or a few adjuncts to complement academic work and pay them accordingly. I’m not an administrator here so I’m not aware of what is being done exactly.”

5. Shouldn’t full-time and adjunct faculty make the same because they teach essentially the same thing many times?  What is your recommendation for adjunct faculty wanting to be a full-time faculty member? 

Almeida’s response, “…The question of load is an easier one to answer. A college professor full-time isn’t just teaching a class. This person is to advise students, conduct scholarship and serve the university… some of these faculty members represent the university in the media, produce films, assist with recruitment, in some cases bring an external grant, manage a media center, sit in the board of a non-profit, or lead a program and assist with accreditation efforts… and so on. I know… Adjunct faculty is treated differently in different institutions. I’ve always treated part-time faculty with much respect not as a second class citizen like many do. My recommendation for anyone wanting to have a career in higher education is to pursue a doctorate degree with good academic training. It is taxing but it pays off in the long run.”

6. Why is a PHD a requirement in higher education? 

Almeida’s response, “…A doctorate degree is a requirement. I’m old school when it comes to this. A PhD is a weapon in higher education. If completed correctly under a well trained advisor, a person with a PhD will learn how to do research well which is part of the job. I’m not aware of any reputable university that will hire a full-time professor with rank without having some expectation for conducting scholarship. In fact, those who choose not to do it end up stuck in that university, at the will of a promotion and tenure committee or the president him or herself, in the hands of the university for future employment. As my advisor once taught me, “You have to do the right thing not their right thing.” It was because of my doctorate in Instructional Systems that I’m able to analyze and create operating systems of instruction in multiple areas combined which has helped me to acquire multiple areas of expertise overtime, always with an eye in the practical, leading to conceptualizing and selling a business for a profit. There is an element of intellectualism that should remain in colleges and universities, for the benefit of the student.”

7. Students Don’t learn much from a professor when it comes to what is required in the workforce, right? 

Almeida’s response, “…Yep, we disagree when it comes to the importance of having a doctorate (a terminal degree) in order to operate to capacity in higher education and  professors do teach content that is applicable to the workforce.

Let me just clarify that a person holding a final academic degree is also able to perform to capacity in our industry, as long as that person pursues terminal academic training. A person who completed a MFA, for example, is able to function well in higher education and assist students to be successful in their careers. We need to be careful when assuming that college professors don’t teach anything practical to students or that what they teach doesn’t help students in the current economy. When an English professor teaches students to write better, students gain the skillset of writing which is a much needed skillset to have in the workforce. When a professor of philosophy challenges a student to think critically about the world and to make better decisions with logic… students gain by acquiring a very important skillset (critical thinking) that we need much in today’s economy. Or a professor of communication who teaches a student how to deliver a speech or how to strategize a social media campaign for a client… they gain public speaking and strategic thinking which are definitely important skillsets to have in today’s marketplace.”

8. Adjuncts are required because a lot of professors don’t know how to teach and many only worked in higher education… 

Almeida’s response,“…I do agree with you that not every PHD (or MFA) knows how to teach, true statement. In my doctorate degree, we got training on how to teach a course. What can be challenging is discovering how a particular population of students behave in order to get good student evaluation scores consistency. I can tell you from experience that students in private schools behave much differently than students in the public sector, in many respects.

Some professors only know higher education, true. However, let’s keep in mind that higher education is also an industry, full of politics, where professors must report to the chain of command and perform to capacity in order to maintain their jobs… all that cool stuff that we know about. College professors also have to apply for a job, like college graduates do and get the required qualifications. I also disagree with you (kindly, of course) when it comes to one’s expertise and not being related to teaching. It depends on what they study. Folks who got training in the field of education maybe trained in how to plan and deliver an educational intervention. The former are used daily by great college instructors in our region and beyond.”

9. Why do adjuncts need to get a doctorate degree to learn how to do research and gain skillsets if people can learn skills on their own?  

Almeida’s response, “…I agree with you on the fact that we can get much of the skills we need on our own, including the skills that we teach in a college classes not just research. In my opinion, it is wise for an adjunct to complete a doctorate degree in order to be prepared to answer research questions that may have an impact in the members of our society. Doing top quality research isn’t as easy as it seems. We all acquire new skillsets on our own, absolutely. We are trained in a doctoral degree to keep this mindset, at least I was. The value added from Penn State (where I got my doctorate degree) is that they train you to seek where to find the resources you need to grow professionally. It’s an interesting debate. I do feel that obtaining a skillset under the guidance of a supervisor is important if one is to do the same for someone else. I’m old school when it comes to academic stuff but that’s just me.”

10. Why do students in the USA pay all this tuition when they could pay a fraction of the price overseas? 

Almeida’s response, “… Tuition overseas is often cheaper than tuition in the USA for American students. I’m not sure how employers would feel about recruiting kids who attended a foreign college unless the university is among the very best universities in the world. The reason I say this is because many Brazilians who come to the US trying to find employment with a bachelors degree rarely get an opportunity to work. They often have to study again in here in order to be able to find employment in the US.”

 

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