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Community college administrators say they enjoy a buyer's market when hiring full-time faculty thanks to a surplus of newly minted Ph.D.s and waning state financial support that's prompted an increase in adjunct hires.
While administrators say faculty retention is rarely a problem right now, it will likely become one during the next decade, as baby boomers begin to retire. Many of these older educators trace their tenures back to their college's founding in the 1960s and 1970s.
"There seems to be large numbers of people attracted to teaching at community colleges. It isn't hard to get candidates." said Dr. James Jacobs. associate director of community college operations at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. "There always is a problem getting certain faculty in new technology skills, and sometimes old technology skills like nursing. Technical faculty are often hard to come by because in some areas, you can make far more money working in the area than teaching in it."
That's certainly been the experience for Paul Forte, assistant director of human resources in the Dallas County Community College District. "Our biggest crunch is in the health care field," he said. "We have a heck of a time trying to get nurses who have master's degrees to come in and teach. They're highly difficult, hard-to-fill positions.... [They] can make $56,000, $57,000, and you're trying to say, 'Come and teach for me [for an] entry-level salary of $38,000.' It's a no-brainer."
Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., struggles to find full-time candidates in mathematics and the sciences, including biology, anatomy, chemistry and physiology, said Dr. Robert Dees, president of the two-year school. "People who are qualified in those areas can make more money on the outside than they can teaching," he said.
In addition to subject-area shortages, the combination of baby boomer retirements and the swelling matriculation of their children--along with inflows of students from steady immigration--will create geographic shortages, said Dr. George R. Boggs, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.
With 53 percent of full-time faculty and 43 percent of part-time faculty expected to retire in the next 15 years, "We're going to see a great turnover," he said, which will hit states like Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, who have high populations of baby boomers, particularly hard.
"This is both a challenge and an opportunity," said Boggs. "We have to find the best people, and the people who really are interested in teaching and student learning."
For the moment, though, turnover is almost nonexistent, say most administrators and other observers.
"There's very little," said Jacobs. "One of the characteristics of community colleges is that you have a highly unionized faculty situation [tending to lead to] higher-paying jobs with more benefits and job security." …