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Current Issue: Summer 2016

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Transforming the Community College Workforce

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The inclusion of $62.3 million for new faculty hires in the current budget presents a great opportunity to infuse our colleges with newly educated, tech savvy, enthusiastic colleagues fresh out of college. But is this really happening? Let’s examine the reality of hiring in the light of an aging faculty workforce struggling to reclaim lost ground during the devastating budget cuts, led by equally aging administrators, of previous years.

According to the Chancellor’s Office, full-time faculty declined by 2.4% while part-time ranks dropped 7.2% between 2008 and 2010. Despite losing such knowledgeable academic employees, a plan was never developed to train replacements. While the slide in faculty has recently started to reverse, with full-timers increasing to 17,059 between 2013 and 2014, it should be noted that this is only a minor improvement from 2000 when the system employed 16,689 full-time faculty.

The increasing number of new hires equates to a growing need for professional development among faculty. While a percentage of the new full-time hires will have had relevant experience as a part-timer, some will come to the community college faculty ranks right out of graduate school with little to no formal training in teaching techniques. As these faculty members are hired into tenure track positions, where will they turn for guidance? The answer is their more experienced colleagues.

Access to experienced faculty represents both an excellent opportunity and a growing challenge in our system. The breakdown of faculty data by age shows the percentage of full-timers in the 60+ group at nearly 27%. Nearly identical is the percentage of adjunct faculty over 60, standing at 28%. In the next five years, roughly one in four community college faculty will retire. While some may remain as adjuncts, for the most part the knowledge these individuals possess will be lost to the system. It is critical that we hire more full-time faculty now so that new-hires may benefit from working alongside this outgoing class of seasoned educators.

In addition to the looming wave of faculty retirements, colleges face another dilemma: where to turn for competent administrative leadership. Virtually every faculty gathering veers to oft-repeated complaints on the stagnant candidate pools for president and chancellor positions. It would appear that these same executives migrate from college to college, with (sometime) less than stellar results.

According to the Chancellor’s Office, the percentage of college administrators has not changed since 2000. Like their faculty counterparts, the percent of administrators over age 60 has remained at nearly 24%. As faculty retire, administrators have followed suit. The growing need to find suitably trained college administrative leaders to fill in for future retirees will extenuate over the next five years in much the same way it will for faculty.

If we faculty want to diversify administrative hiring, more of us should consider the transition to administrative roles. An Academic Senate Rostrum article in 2008 discussed the need for faculty to move to administration but not a solution for how to overcome some of the difficulties they face in doing so. The state Academic Senate has also looked into the barriers faculty have transitioning into administration, but currently there are no easy solutions for easing the path from faculty to administrator.

FACCC and the other faculty organizations succeeded in securing the $62.3 million in funding from the Legislature to address the need for hiring more full-time faculty, and many districts have already put that money to good use. It’s a great start, but we must continue to build on this success. Our long established goals of 75/25 full- to part-time faculty teaching credit classroom instruction, part-time pay equity, fully funded professional development, appropriate counselor to student ratios, and fully funded student services have yet to be realized. As we change in the next five years, we have to consider the pipelines to both faculty and administrative ranks, recognizing that our California Community Colleges will always be places of great transformation—they just need to be supported in doing so.