Number of adjunct professors at area colleges, fall 2012:
Full time: 224
Part time: 421
Full time: 72
Part time: 124
Full time: 160
Part time: 55
Full time: 483
Part time: 300
Source: Area colleges
Adjunct faculty typically are part-time employees who do not receive benefits, such as health care. They don't serve as faculty advisers or have any obligations to the college outside teaching and keeping office hours for students. They are paid per credit hour or by course, and factors such as longevity or education may affect their pay.
Non-tenure track faculty can range from one-year contract lecturers to multiyear employees but generally are full-time faculty. They receive benefits and may serve on planning committees or have other obligations outside the classroom, but do not typically conduct research.
The stereotype that all college faculty are full-time researchers may no longer be true.
Research on part-time and nontenure track faculty indicates nearly 70 percent of instructional faculty at colleges and universities now are either part-time adjunct faculty or non-tenure track faculty, according to data from the Coalition on the Academic Workforce. The coalition is a group of higher education and faculty associations that studies issues related to faculty working conditions and student success.
What impact that has on students isn't clear, according to the coalition study.
Locally, the number of adjunct faculty has grown and in some cases surpassed full-time faculty at some institutions for a variety of reasons.
"As our graduate programs grow, they create demands on full-time faculty," said Jocelyn Sanders, associate provost for academic affairs for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "Adjuncts give us some flexibility."
An enrollment spurt has led UTC to hire more adjuncts, mostly in the college of arts and sciences, which houses general education classes. Non-tenure track faculty numbers have also risen among UTC faculty for similar reasons.
Though using part-time faculty to teach classes may be seen as an easy way to cut costs at colleges, the hiring of adjunct faculty is not necessarily a cost-cutting measure. Adjunct faculty are paid per course or per credit hour, and experience and education affect their rates. Rates may range from $400 per credit hour to more than $700 per credit hour, and vary institution to institution.
Often, adjunct faculty members are hired because of their professional experience, or to fill a need spurred by surging enrollment. People working in a specific field, such as interior design, may teach courses that explain a new technology in light design, for example. They must meet the minimum qualifications required of a tenured or full-time faculty member, which in many cases means a master's degree.
Chattanooga State Community College uses adjuncts to teach courses for professionals where a very specific skill is sought, particularly in technology, according to Eva Lewis, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness and research.
Adjuncts can bring certain expertise to a subject area, and can outperform tenured or full-time faculty in student achievement on tests, said Herb Hooper, adjunct professor of mathematics and former dean at Chattanooga State.
"A college can use [adjuncts] to its benefit," he said. "On the other hand, you have to be careful and not hire too many adjuncts."
Most tenured and nontenured faculty have duties outside the classroom that may include advising students, curriculum development or institutional planning, which are not required of adjuncts. Full-time faculty also teach multiple classes, and account for most instruction at colleges even though there may be more adjunct than full-time faculty. To be accredited, at least 25 percent of courses at colleges must be taught by full-time faculty.
"It's not fair to expect someone who is hired on a part-time basis to do the sort of work expected of the faculty," Sanders said.
One criticism of adjunct faculty is that they are not as available as other faculty members, though Sanders said UTC adjuncts are encouraged to keep office hours. Hooper said he works in the math lab so he can be available to students.
Whether a faculty member is full-time or part-time does not really affect classroom learning, however, some students said.
"To be honest, I like all my teachers," said Ronald Draughon, 20, a sophomore at Chattanooga State. "I would say a part-time and full-time professor is the same thing."
Grace Kindiger, a freshman at UTC, said her favorite professor is an adjunct who teaches world civilizations.
"I don't know if it's because she's part-time or this is her first year teaching -- she seems to have a lot more excitement," Kindiger said.