Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?


Executive Summary

Although 50 years of research has shown that faculty/student interaction is crucial to student success, recent trends and newly-adopted practices in higher education actually decrease the possibilities for faculty to interact with students in the amounts and the ways that matter most.

This paper examines the price students pay for several trends in higher education that have gained acceptance without a balanced critical analysis.

If research were driving higher education policy, investing in faculty would be a top priority at every college and university. But what is happening in our country, instead, is a growing disinvestment in faculty.

This paper details how serious and how pervasive this disinvestment in faculty has become, and it discusses the ways in which current policies and practices around faculty hiring and salary are hurting students.

As the research on student success suggests, the churning of the faculty workforce along with reduced opportunities for interaction caused by low salaries and over-reliance on part-time appointments are especially hard on students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students.

If the United States is going to have an educated citizenry for its economy and its democracy, our colleges and universities must do more to provide optimal learning conditions for our increasingly diverse student body.

Given the importance of college degrees for social mobility, especially for low-income people and people of color, our nation’s legislators, university trustees, and campus administrators must make sure that faculty have the time and energy to do all they can and all they want to do for students.

Providing all students with real opportunities for success in college will require a shift in institutional priorities, particularly as reflected in their budgets, to better align our colleges and universities with the core mission of higher education and the role faculty play in carrying it out successfully.