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Part-Time Faculty at Institutions of Higher Education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Authorization: 2001 House Resolution 376, 3002

    House Resolution 376 of 2001 (Printer’s No. 3002) directed the Joint State Government Commission to study issues relating to the quality of education and the increased employment of part-time faculty at the Commonwealth’s institutions of higher education. The resolution instructed the Commission to establish a legislative task force and an advisory committee to conduct this study. Although the task force was to report its findings and recommendations to the House of Representatives by October 1, 2002, House Resolution 676 of 2002 (Printer’s No. 4351) extended the deadline to October 1, 2003.

On March 12, 2002, the task force held its organizational meeting to discuss the scope of the study and the composition of the advisory committee. On April 10 and May 8, 2002, the task force formally approved the list of advisory committee members. Ronald R. Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center and former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1975-98), was selected as the chairman of the advisory committee. The advisory committee consisted of part-time faculty members, administrators, representatives of educational organizations and unions, students and a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, the advisory committee included representatives from state-owned universities, state-related universities, community colleges and private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

On June 20, 2002, the advisory committee held its organizational meeting and began to discuss issues relating to part-time faculty and the impact on the education system in Pennsylvania. The advisory committee subsequently met on October 3, 2002; January 13, 2003 and April 10, 2003. Throughout its deliberations, the advisory committee reviewed and discussed data and other background information in order to gain further insight into the issue of the use of part-time faculty.

On September 30, 2003, the task force authorized the release of this report.

Although Pennsylvania has a long tradition of non-intervention in the management of affairs at institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth, there is a legitimate public interest to provide for the fair treatment of public employees. Many of these institutions exist as a matter of action by public officials: they are governed by state law and are supported by a substantial amount of public funds. The assurance of fair treatment is provided primarily, though not exclusively, through the Commonwealth’s collective bargaining law for public employees. In addition, there is a public interest in assuring that students who attend public and private colleges and universities, with the benefit of direct institutional subsidies or other forms of direct or indirect student financial assistance provided by public funds, have the benefit of quality educational programs. Such programs necessarily entail instruction by faculty members who are appropriately prepared, supported and compensated, regardless of their classification as full-time or part-time.

In Pennsylvania, the increasing use of part-time faculty has been especially significant at the community college level. Each community college, however, sets its own administrative policies with respect to part-time faculty. Although the Commonwealth and the respective local communities establish and financially support each community college, local boards of trustees govern the institutions. Consequently, each community college acts independently of one another and individually addresses issues regarding employee salaries, benefits and working conditions.

Because the use of part-time faculty in Pennsylvania is most prevalent in community colleges, and increasingly so, and because community colleges in Pennsylvania receive substantial public funds to support their institutions and students directly, the advisory committee emphasized the need to address its recommendations primarily to the community colleges. Nevertheless, it strongly encouraged that the goals and principles underlying the recommendations should apply to all institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania, especially those in the public sector.

Despite the belief that its recommendations would improve the educational climate in Pennsylvania, the advisory committee believed that the recommendations should only be voluntarily applied to institutions; the recommendations should not be interpreted as legislative or regulatory mandates. Instead, the advisory committee chose to establish a vision for the Commonwealth to implement best-practice standards. In addition, it did not want to stifle or discount creative and meaningful approaches that already may be underway by institutions of higher education to address the concerns raised in this report. In several instances, the recommendations of the advisory committee entail special financial incentives that will require appropriations by the General Assembly.

This report contains data tables in a separate section that follows the explanatory text. The advisory committee members reviewed and discussed the information provided in the tables and used the tables as a tool in their deliberations. National data and data from the Mid East Region cited in this report take into account community colleges. Most Pennsylvania data include information from only state-related and state-owned universities and do not include information from community colleges. Community colleges in Pennsylvania are not mandated to provide data as the state-related and state-owned universities are required to do.

A selected bibliography follows the tables and provides many resource materials gathered by the staff of the Joint State Government Commission.

Finally, this report contains appendices listing the institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania, replicating House Resolutions 376 of 2001 and 676 of 2002 and providing the draft recommendations formulated by the advisory committee at its April 10, 2003 meeting.

While this report represents the consensus of the advisory committee, it does not necessarily reflect unanimity among the members on each individual recommendation, nor does it necessarily reflect the position of any educational institution or entity of which the member is affiliated. In addition, inclusion of any finding, recommendation or conclusion in this report does not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the legislative task force.

The explanatory material contained in this report is provided to facilitate both the consideration by the General Assembly of the issues regarding part-time faculty in Pennsylvania and the preparation of any legislative or regulatory remedy.