Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 21, 2012

Money, flexibility factors in NMC adjunct hiring


TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College's president Tim Nelson isn't apologetic about its growing number of adjunct instructors, though he concedes there's a limit to how many NMC ultimately should hire.

Adjuncts, he said, are positive for NMC in several ways.

First, NMC can nimbly respond to peaks and valleys of enrollment by hiring — and not rehiring — adjuncts as needed.

Secondly, many adjuncts come from the professional or business world and bring an up-to-date, unique perspective that full-time staff can't provide. In specific areas, there are not enough students to support a full-time instructional role.

Adjuncts also keep costs low, and that translates into affordable tuition rates. Staffing costs make up 72 percent of NMC's budget, he said.

Finally, there's a business model and monetary component, Nelson said.

"The majority of our adjuncts have other jobs. This is an additional responsibility, additional income. They are not looking at it to support an entire lifestyle. Most have a different job that is paying the freight," Nelson said. "They have other options."

Adjunct positions are held by a wide range of professionals, retirees, full-time teachers, and trained educators. Forty percent of adjuncts surveyed in 2008 held full-time jobs, according to NMC's Adjunct Faculty AQIP Project report.