The recent results of an ambitious survey undertaken in 2010 of contingent academic workers provides a fuller picture of national trends affecting part-time instructors. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce designed its study to capture data about all contingent (non-tenure track) instructors but focused on part-time faculty working at post-secondary institutions.

“Numbering more than 700,000, this population represents more than 70 percent of the contingent academic workforce and almost half the entire higher education faculty in the United States,” according to the report. “Part-time faculty members represent the largest and fastest-growing segment of the postsecondary instructional workforce in the United States.”

How are part-time instructors faring nationwide? Not so well, the survey found. For the roughly 9,100 part-time instructors who responded, median pay per three-unit course was $2,700, with for-profit institutions paying only about $1,560. Part-time faculty are also extremely unlikely to receive adequate professional support or professional development, according to respondents.

Is there a silver lining? The study found significant differences in nearly all aspects of employment between unionized and non-unionized part-time instructors: “The presence of a union on campus … appears to have a positive impact on wages for faculty members employed part-time.”

Unionized part-time instructors also reported significantly higher rates of employer-provided health benefits and employer contributions to retirement programs, as well as a greater likelihood of being paid for office hours, class cancellations, and participation in department meetings. Salary increases and job security also rated higher among unionized part-time instructors.