The guidelines set by the Ohio Board of Regents hold that 60% of the credit-hours in any degree program should be taught by full-time faculty or administrators at the college. There has been no enforcement of that provision, but many nearby state colleges and universities have done better. Sinclair has maintained a 60/40 FT/PT ratio all along, though recently their president announced that they were going to reduce to 50/50, primarily by attrition.
But what does research say about FT/PT ratios? For years, publication on this question concentrated on opinions: "We think that part-time faculty are an asset because..." or "...are a problem because...". The only empirical truth widely known was that part-time faculty were cheap.
Recently, a number of empirical studies explored issues related to PT faculty--and the results are dismal. Among them:
- Graduation rates decrease as the ratio of part-time faculty increases.
- Students are more likely to drop out if their required introductory courses are taught by part-time instructors.
- Students receive less service.Part-timers rarely are available to students outside of scheduled class time.
- Part-timers spend less time preparing for classes—a condition made worse by last-minute hiring and scheduling decisions that, in some cases, lead to an instructor being hired to teach a course after it has held its first meeting.
- Part-time instructors are often assigned to teach courses outside their areas of expertise.
- Essential non-teaching functions—student advising, campus governance, curriculum development—are not performed by part-time faculty; these responsibilities are increased to unacceptable levels for the remaining full-time faculty.
- Campuses fail to provide administrative guidance or access to resources for part-time faculty.
A close examination of these points shows that eliminating full-time positions is contradictory to the administration's stated goals. We will not increase retention by pursuing policies shown to reduce it. We will not recruit successfully if there are insufficient full-time faculty to pursue it. We will not deliver "a personal experience" if significant numbers of our faculty are too busy to answer email, meet a student after class, or sponsor a student organization.
Of course, it's going to require rather deep changes at all levels of higher education administration in Ohio to reverse this sort of counterproductive decision-making overall. But there are probably things that can be done about it locally.
I've summarized the research I've condensed above in a short precis, with references, that I'll be happy to share with anyone interested.