Exciting times in Higher Ed hiring



In January, Joan Axelrod-Contrada wrote an article for the Boston Globe in which she profiled a number of professionals who have moved from the private sector into higher education. Beyond providing such personalized illustrations of what is involved in such a change in career direction, the article explains why many skills are not only transferable to careers in higher education but are actually in demand at colleges and universities:

“Jobs at colleges and universities are changing along with technology, students, and higher education itself. Demand for professionals to work in online learning, fundraising, and services for an increasingly diverse pool of students is booming. Positions such as research analyst, communications coordinator, library specialist, and project and program manager are also in demand, according to the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium.

“Over the next 10 years, jobs for college and university administrators are expected to grow 15 percent nationally compared with 11 percent for all jobs, according to the US Labor Department. The median pay is about $86,000 a year.”

Very conspicuously, faculty are not mentioned at all in this article. I will say more on faculty hiring a bit later in this post.

Axelrod-Contrada’s article includes the following profile:

“Patrick Carpenter, 36, of West Springfield, got his master’s degree in higher education administration online from Bay Path University in Longmeadow in 2011 with the goal of becoming a college president.

“Today, colleges and universities increasingly tap politicians, business executives, and administrators for the post of president, which traditionally has gone to academics.

“Carpenter began his career in higher education in 2002 and returned to his alma mater, Elms College in Chicopee, to become director of residence life. He landed a position in 2011 as director of annual giving at Elms in the hopes of someday nabbing the top job at a college or university.”

A decade or two ago, this individual’s aspirations would have seemed very misplaced. After the article was published, any number of people would have been rushing to tell him that without any background as a tenured faculty member, his chances of becoming a college president were just about zero.

I am guessing, however, that he was not inundated with such cautions. That’s how much things have changed. It’s not just that administrators and administrative staff are proliferating. It’s not just that administration has become a distinct career track for faculty. Rather, it’s that faculty credentials are becoming a less and less relevant—never mind essential–criterion for being a college or university administrator.

Several decades ago, a football coach’s appointment as the president of a fairly sizable public university would have been so preposterous that it would have permanently damaged the credibility of the institution. Last year, when Jim Tressel was named president of Youngstown State University, there was wry amusement but no outrage.

I indicated that I would return to the subject of faculty hiring.

Here is an item distributed by Education Dive just this past week:

“Dive Brief:

–The number of higher ed job postings for adjuncts ballooned 37% in the past year with full-time faculty positions growing barely 3%, according to a new report from HigherEdJobs.

–The company, which hosts a career site for higher education job postings, also reported the number of actual jobs in higher education was down .5%, or 8,600 jobs.

–More job postings but fewer jobs could mean an increase in employee turnover that colleges and universities aren’t able to fill quickly enough to keep the job count stable, according to HigherEdJobs.

“Dive Insight:

Last year, HigherEdJobs posted more than 159,000 positions to its career website. Its jobs data is based on a group of 890 schools that have subscribed to the company’s unlimited posting service for at least four years. When it comes to the student population, the National Clearinghouse recently released new data showing the number of students at community colleges is down slightly, due in large part to the improving economy. According to HigherEdJobs, community colleges saw the greatest drop in faculty and staff positions, losing 3.8% of its workforce or 2,700 jobs. The population of both groups at four-year nonprofits remained relatively stable.”

I suspect that there is almost no surprise in those numbers, and, sadly, only very muted outrage over them.