“Adjuncts and Retention Rates,” Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed (June 21/10):
Freshmen who have many of their courses taught by adjuncts are less likely than other students to return as sophomores, according to a new study looking at six four-year colleges and universities in a state system. Further, the nature of the impact of adjunct instruction varies by institution type and the type of adjunct used, the study finds. And in some cases, students taking courses from full-time, non-tenure track instructors or from adjuncts well supported by their institutions do better than those taught by other kinds of adjuncts.
The study — published in the journal Educational Policy — is likely to be closely scrutinized by adjunct activists, who sometimes see such research as “blaming the victim” in that such instructors lack the resources and job security that can allow many tenured faculty members to connect with students.
But the research could also be influential in that it goes beyond previous research in not treating all adjuncts alike, and in that it frames the issue very much around retention at a time that many policy makers are focusing on how to improve graduation rates. The authors note that the typical four-year college loses 26 percent of its students between the first and second years, and that about 60 percent of college students who fail to finish end their program in the first year — suggesting that any push to improve retention and graduation rates must address factors that relate to first-year retention.