Recent statistics show adjunct, or part-time, professors now teach more than half the classes at OCCC.
According to the analysis of sections taught, adjunct professors are teaching 55 percent of classes, whereas regular full-time professors are teaching only 45 percent.
College President Paul Sechrist said this trend is not to his liking.
“Our goal is to have a majority of our classes taught by full-time faculty who are able to share the workload of advising and mentoring students, evaluating and developing the curriculum,” Sechrist said.
Sechrist said shortfalls in the state budget have prevented the college from adding more full-time professors.
“The increase in the percentage of adjunct faculty in the last two years at OCCC is mostly related to the budget,” Sechrist said. “OCCC is a state-supported community college. The greatest source of funding to hire faculty and other employees comes from the state of Oklahoma.”
The allotment of money given to OCCC by the state has decreased during a period when the college has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment. Within the last two years, enrollment has increased by 23 percent, whereas the funding from the state has decreased by 5.5 percent, Sechrist said.
The average full-time professor earns almost $50,000 per year, while adjunct professors are paid $640 per credit hour, said Larry Robertson, director of compensation and human resources systems.
For full-time faculty teaching a full-time load of five three-credit-hour courses per semester, the cost per class is about $5000. By comparison, the cost of hiring a part-time professor to teach a three-credit-hour class is just under $2000.
In times like these, Sechrist said, when the college sees a spike in enrollment and no additional funding from the state to add full-time faculty, OCCC increases the percentage of part-time faculty to make sure there are teachers for classes added as result of the increased enrollment.
Some students say adjunct professors lack the commitment of full-time faculty.
Brian Crone, film and video major, said he has had some negative encounters with adjunct professors.
“I have had adjunct professors that can sometimes act like they don’t really care, or they’re not really into their lesson, or they just kind of go through the motions,” Crone said.
“It really depends on the individual, though, because my videographer professor is an adjunct professor, and he’s a really great teacher,” Crone said. “He will definitely go the extra step to try to help you.”
The college maintains its academic standards when hiring adjunct professors, Sechrist said.
“The qualifications for our adjunct faculty are the same as for our full-time faculty. I know many of our adjunct faculty personally and know that they are very committed to OCCC and our students.
“Many have been teaching as adjunct faculty for a number of years and are as passionate about students as our full-time faculty.”
Sociology adjunct Professor Robby Snow said she has a deep love for teaching that is deeper than her role as an adjunct.
“I have been an adjunct for over 20 years,” Snow said. “My passion for teaching goes beyond that of a full-time professor because I’m here, not for the money, but because I want to be.”
Other students say adjunct professors are just as good in the classroom.
“I really can’t tell any difference between the two,” said OCCC nursing student Amber McKinzie. “It seems that adjuncts usually put just as much time into their work as full-time professors do.”
Sechrist said another reason for hiring adjunct professors is to control tuition costs for students. “We want to stay true to our mission of providing access to students through affordability,” he said.
“If we did not use adjuncts, tuition would dramatically increase, something no one wants to see. “If we did not use adjuncts, we would not be able to add the additional courses and we would have to turn students away.”
Andrea Weckmueller-Behringer, an OCCC nutrition adjunct professor, explained her ideas behind the common misconception about adjunct professors being less effective teachers.
“Just like in any profession, it all depends on the professional,” she said. “You can have adjunct professors that take you very seriously and do a lot of extra work, although they don’t get paid that much. And you can also have adjunct professors that put in the minimum hours and don’t provide good service to their students.”
The same goes for full-time professors. The full-time or part-time does not matter, Weckmueller-Behringer said.
Sechrist said he hopes the college can dial back the use of adjunct professors when the economy improves.
“We make this temporary exception to the goal of having a majority of our classes taught by full-time faculty only when state funds fall short of keeping up with the increases in enrollment,” Sechrist said.
“When funding is increased from the state, we plan to increase the number of full-time faculty positions so that our goal can once again be achieved.”