Part-time faculty the norm at Cape Cod Community College

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Source:  Cape Cod Online

Students at the state’s community colleges are more likely than ever to be taught by part-time professors who draw a meager salary and even fewer benefits.

The trend is particularly acute at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, where over the past quarter of a century the number of full-time faculty members dropped from 83 to 70 while the number of part-time professors vaulted from 56 to 258.

The statistics are being revealed today in a report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, which says the rise in adjunct faculty at the Cape college is 361 percent.

The center also pointed out in the report that state colleges and universities have increased the number of administrators three times faster than their number of students.

At Cape Cod Community College, according to the report, the number of administrators climbed from eight in 1987-88 to 28 in 2011-12.

The increasing reliance on adjunct faculty troubles representatives of the Massachusetts Community College Council, the community college teachers union.

“Across the state, about two-thirds of the actual (community college) courses are now being taught by adjuncts,” said Joseph T. LeBlanc, MCCC president and professor of English at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

It amounts to a system of economic exploitation, LeBlanc said.

“We’re becoming just like your local Wal-Mart store,” he said.

Adjunct professors get no vacation or sick pay, or health benefits, LeBlanc said. “And they get a sham of a retirement plan. They have to teach until they drop.”

Pay is also low, with compensation ranging from $2,760 to $3,336 for a three-credit community college course, LeBlanc said.

Nearly 60 percent of courses at the Cape’s community college are taught by adjunct faculty members, he said.

“It’s gone up everywhere. Our phenomenon is nothing unusual,” Michael Gross, Cape Cod Community College spokesman, said.

“It’s something over which we have no control,” Gross said, noting that working conditions of adjunct faculty are spelled out in the contract between the MCCC and the state Department of Higher Education.

By contract, full-time faculty can volunteer but not be assigned to teach evening or weekend courses — times when community colleges often hold classes to meet the needs of working students, Gross said.

“You’ve got to have adjunct faculty,” he said. “They are critically important. We’d be out of business without them.”

 

ADJUNCTS: DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS

Adjunct professors range from individuals who have made their mark in another field and are sharing their love of a subject to individuals who have become a sort of itinerant scholar, scrambling to patch together hours at a variety of places.

At Cape Cod Community College, adjunct faculty members include Barnstable District First Justice W. James O’Neill and former congressional aide Mark Forest.

They teach courses in criminal justice and political science, Gross said.

Other adjunct professors want to teach full time but don’t have the opportunity, LeBlanc said.

Adjunct faculty members at Cape Cod Community College commute to University of Massachusetts Boston, Bridgewater State University and Massasoit Community College and also teach classes online, said Claudine Barnes, president of the faculty and professional staff at the Cape college.

LeBlanc estimated that 10 percent of the state’s 5,000 community college adjunct professors are teaching a full course load of 10 classes, or more.

At the top end of the pay scale for adjuncts, a 10-course load would pay only about $34,000 a year — a tough economic row to hoe especially considering they have to pay for their own health insurance, he said.

LeBlanc said it’s hypocritical for Massachusetts to enact a universal health law but not provide state employees with health coverage.

Earlier this month, he testified on Beacon Hill in favor of Senate Bill 1257, which would provide health insurance to part-time instructors at state colleges who carry at least a half-time course load.

Adjunct faculty members don’t get paid for having office hours or serving on committees, which affects their ability to guide students or contribute to the life of a college, Barnes said.

The union has repeatedly asked the state’s 15 community college presidents to pay adjunct faculty for extra course work, but the answer has always been “no,” she said.

The squeeze on state funding for colleges and community colleges is part of the economic driver behind the increasing reliance on adjunct faculty, Gross said.

The state’s direct appropriation for the Cape’s community college in 2012 was $9,823,796 — $155,367 less than it was allotted in 2000, Gross said.

“Imagine what my tuition and fees would be” without adjunct faculty, he said. In lieu of increased state aid, the only other way to get more money is to charge students more, and the cost of a three-credit course already has increased from $218 in 1995 to $501 this year.

“It’s certainly a terrible situation in that if it’s not the state, it’s the students” picking up increased costs, Gross said.

 

STUDENT NUMBERS DOWN, ADMINISTRATORS UP

The number of students attending the local community college has dropped over the past few years, from 2,819.4 full-time equivalents in fiscal year 2010 to 2,539.3 in 2012, Gross said.

He said college officials attribute the downturn to the rising costs of housing and fuel squeezing out funds available for education.

Full-time equivalents represent the number of students by the total number of full-time credit courses being taken.

In all, 6,302 students took credit classes, including summer credit classes, Gross said.

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting says 2,473 full-time students attended the Cape college during the 2011-12 school year, based on enrollment data submitted by the college to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

The center, based at Boston University, says 2,573 full-time students attended Cape Cod Community College in 1987-88, but Gross said the number was actually 587.

The center may have rolled part-time students and noncredit students into that figure, he said. “It’s hard for us to know.”

Gross said the 250 percent increase in administrators fits the rise in enrollment as well as the changing mission of the college.

“It’s a very different institution” than it was in 1987-88, he said. “We had no IT department at all, other than two people in the bottom of our library.”

Francis McDonald, vice president of operations at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, where full-time administrators grew in number from 13 in 1987-88 to 38 in 2011-12, said administrators are needed to run the training ship, athletics, admissions, the business office, student residences and the like for the college of 1,300 students.

He said the figure of 13 administrators 25 years ago seems low.

Barnes said she would like to see more administrative staff at Cape Cod Community College.

The West Barnstable campus employs three academic deans to oversee more than 300 instructors. That number is too low, Barnes said.

Read at capecodonline.com

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