"Temporary Adjuncts as an Effective Way to Screen for Effective Long-Term Instructions: Are Colleges Retaining the Most Effective Adjuncts?"
Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) 43rd Conference
March 15-17, 2018
Title: Temporary Adjuncts as an Effective Way to Screen for Effective Long-Term Instructions: Are Colleges Retaining the Most Effective Adjuncts?
Authors: Florence Xiatao Ran, Di Xu
The US higher education is increasingly relying on non-tenure-track faculty. While colleges resort to contingent instructors for their lower cost and greater flexibility, some researchers argue that temporary adjuncts may also provide a flexible and low-cost way to screen for effective instructors to be hired on a full-time long-term basis. Can massive hiring of temporary adjunct instructors function as an effective screening mechanism for more productive instructors? In this study, we use a unique administrative data set that includes student transcript records and detailed instructor profile, including the length of their contracts, in both public two-year and four-year institutions in an entire state. Moreover, using the social security number, the state was also able to link each instructor with her unemployment insurance data, which therefore includes detailed labor market records of each faculty before, during, and after he or she works as a college instructor. With this unique dataset, we are able to address the existing literature gap by providing the first nuanced understanding of the industry adjunct faculty typically comes from, whether they work on non-teaching positions while hired as a college faculty, and whether more effective adjuncts are also more likely to continue their employment in the current teaching position in a college and transition into longer-term full-time positions.
Preliminary findings indicate that there are high turnover rates among adjunct instructors in both public two-year and four-year colleges, especially among adjuncts hired through temporary positions with less than one-year contract with the college. Approximately one quarter of all temporary adjuncts left college for non-teaching positions within one academic year. In addition, we do not find any evidence that colleges are able to retain the most effective adjuncts. Based on a shrinkage estimator of a random effects model that addresses both student-level and course-level selection, we found that adjunct faculty who left college teaching positions within one academic year are more effective in aspiring students to take a second course in the same field and perform better in subsequent courses compared to faculty who stayed as instructors beyond their first year. Specific policy implications from this study will be discussed during the presentation.