By Renner Clements, Contributing Writer

A growing trend in higher education shows that universities have been hiring more and more adjunct professors. Many are unsure whether or not this attack on traditional tenure is to be praised or pitied.

Adjunct professors are contract-based teachers who are newly hired each semester and paid per class they are asked to teach. According to a 2013 study conducted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the percentage of professors being hired outside of a tenure track for part-time work at universities has risen from 30 percent in 1975 to 50 percent in 2011.

Universities are following this trend for several reasons, including the financial relief of not having to pay adjuncts the same as full-time tenured professors, flexibility in the adjunct professors’ schedules and the ability to hire potential adjuncts at any time.

The benefits reaped by both students and professors through this adjunct system have been called into question.

According to the AAUP’s 2016 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, “Every 10 percent increase in part-time faculty positions at public institutions is associated with a 2.65 percent decline in the institution’s graduation rate, and every 10 percent increase in full-time non-tenure-track faculty positions is associated with a 2.22 percent decline.”

The benefits reaped by both students and professors through this adjunct system have been called into question.

While the study above was centered on public universities, private universities and community colleges are not exempt from the adverse effects of hiring adjunct professors. Through a 2012 study “A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members,” The Coalition on the Academic Workforce determined that the students’ success rate, when taught by adjunct professors, is determined by the subject matter.

When part-time professors teach science and humanities, often students experience negative effects, especially with English classes. Since many adjuncts are hired to teach remedial courses such as English 101, this correlation makes sense.

The same study also showed a correlation between the age of the professor and student success. Adjunct professors over the age of forty tend to have a higher passing rate in their classes. Younger adjuncts prove to be less successful.

Adjuncts’ well-being must also be addressed in this debate between the benefits of hiring part-time or full-time faculty. Adjunct professors with the same hours and workload as tenured professors earn on average one-fifth of a tenured professor’s yearly salary. Full-time faculty also enjoy office space and benefits while most adjunct professors lack both.

Although teaching at a full capacity without earning the same as one’s coworkers can be stretching, students might never know by the way they are treated.

“Prof. [Andrew] Casto really cares about his students and the opinions they have,” freshman Elizabeth Davis said. “He is just as good as my other professors and he takes as much interest in his students as other professors.”

Davis said that the biggest problem is not the quality of adjunct teaching but in the time they are available to assist their students.

While some aspiring professors might be abhorred by the idea of being an adjunct, others are inescapably drawn to it because of their passion for students and teaching. The ability to have a short-term job with the gratification of playing an intimate role in students’ education can be attractive, even if the paycheck is not.