Education First: Ohio Higher Education Report for 2016-2017, Part 7


What follows is the seventh section of the most recent higher education report produced by the Ohio Conference of AAUP. John McNay, the President of the Conference, and Sara Kilpatrick, the Executive Director of the Conference, deserve kudos for doing the bulk of the work on this report. The report has been distributed to all of the members of the Ohio legislature and the state’s major newspapers, several of whom have done follow-up investigative reporting on the topics covered in the report.

The previous Ohio Higher Ed Report was similarly published in sections to this blog. The links to those posts, as well as to the two posts in this series, are provided at the end of this post.



Ohio colleges and universities have followed one of the most consistent and troubling national trends in higher education: the overuse and poor treatment of adjunct, or part-time, teaching labor.

Undoubtedly, there always will be a need for adjunct faculty. There is a level of flexibility that institutions require as demands fluctuate. But gone are the days when adjuncts were mostly working professionals who shared their expertise by teaching a class in their free time.

Today, adjuncts are educators forced to piece together a living by teaching as many courses as they can at as many institutions as they can. This trend has been exacerbated by the institutional responses to the Affordable Care Act. In order to avoid providing healthcare benefits, many colleges and universities have limited the number of courses that part-time faculty can teach. Yet, some have even established “adjunct pools” so that the labor of these well-educated professionals can be fully exploited. Even by teaching the equivalent of a full- time load or more, many adjuncts are living in poverty and surviving on public assistance.

Ohio institutions have gone far beyond flexibility needs in the use of part-time labor. Unfortunately, when faced with difficult budget decisions, institutions have been far too eager to slash their instructional budgets before looking at areas that are not essential to the academic mission. On average, Ohio universities are spending less than 25 percent of their budgets on direct instructional costs; and when adjusted for inflation, total instructional compensation has declined over the last 10 years. [14]

Adjuncts are being utilized as a cost-savings measure. Not only are they paid far less than their full-time counterparts and receive no benefits, but they also lack the institutional support that full-time faculty experience, such as sufficient office space, developmental and continuing education funding, and being involved in shared governance of the institution.

Treating educators like fast food employees certainly raises issues of principle in our higher education system. Does it have to be this way? Could institutions find the resources within their budgets to create more full-time positions so that there is less reliance on part-time labor?

Using the self-reported institutional data found in the Integrated Post-Secondary Educational Data System (IPEDS), we calculated the numbers for 13 of Ohio’s four-year universities. We examined how many adjuncts they reported and the percentage of faculty in part-time positions. We also looked at the average compensation (this includes salary and benefits) for assistant professors and instructors and used that as the incremental cost to determine what it would cost to convert 50% of these institutions’ adjunct positions to those full-time positions, as a percentage of the institution’s total budget. The following chart illustrates what we have found.

The two columns on the far right show the percentages of universities’ budgets that it would require to convert 50% of part-time faculty positions to full-time positions. These numbers include the institutions’ branch campuses. We used a 50% conversion rate, as an institution only would need to convert about that many positions in order to fulfill current teaching requirements. It is common for an adjunct to teach one to two courses per term at one institution, while full-time positions typically are required to teach three to four classes per term.

In percentage terms, these conversion rates do not seem unreasonable, but one may say that they translate to hefty real dollar numbers. Certainly, universities’ budgets are huge, and even just one to two percent would not be easy for institutions to shift immediately. However, conversion does not have to occur in one fell swoop. Institutions could come up with multi-year plans to phase-in more full-time positions. It would take prioritization of the instructional mission of the institution, finding efficiencies and cutting costs in the real budget- drainers (e.g. bloated administrations, athletics, construction), and certainly, increased state support would help.

Ohio’s public colleges and universities have the potential to increase instructional quality and halt the immoral treatment of our educators by developing a plan to fund more full-time positions. Ohio taxpayers and Ohio students should expect that they are paying for quality education. We must – and can – do better.


[14] Data extracted from the Post-Secondary Educational Data System (IPEDS).


Previous Post in This Series:

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 1:

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 2:

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 3:…2016-2017-part-3/.

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 4:

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 5:

2017 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 6:


Links to 2015 Ohio Higher Education Report

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 1:

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 2:

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 3:

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 4:

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 5:

2015 Ohio Higher Education Report, Part 6:


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