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New Mexico’s higher education relies heavily on part-time professors

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s higher education institutions are relying heavily on part-time or adjunct instructors who take on large course loads to make a middle-class living.

But the colleges say hiring part-timers gives them flexibility to keep up with student needs and to hire professionals who are up-to-date in their fields, according to the Albuquerque Journal in a copyright story Monday.

At the University of New Mexico, tenured and tenure-track faculty made up 38.9 percent of the total faculty in 2006, the latest year available.

Temporary faculty at UNM comprised 27.9 percent, but that figure does not include graduate teaching assistants or lecturers hired on a permanent basis to teach.

Christine Rack, a part-time sociology instructor at UNM who holds a doctorate, is paid $3,500 for each course she teaches. She said she survives on $21,000 a year.

“It’s really a heck of a lot of work for very little money,” she said.

Rack thinks part-time instructors should be paid like real employees.

“We are state employees. We work hard. We deserve to be compensated,” she said.

At UNM’s College of Arts & Sciences, the hiring of adjuncts has been a creative way to provide classes that students need and hire instructors as needed, said senior associate dean Phillip Gonzales.

The number of students at the university has outstripped the ability of universities to keep up with tenure-track hires, Gonzales said.

Gonzales says he does not think UNM is giving up on the quality of instruction by hiring part-time teachers.

“As long as the people who are doing the contract teaching are well-trained, then, on the level of the instruction (students) get, there is no disadvantage,” Gonzales said.

At Central New Mexico Community College – the state’s largest community college – 66 percent of the faculty are part-time.

“Since most of CNM’s programs are designed to meet the needs of business and industry in the region, many of CNM’s part-time instructors are current full-time professionals in the fields they are teaching at CNM, which provides CNM students with the most current and relevant instruction in their field,” CNM spokesman Brad Moore said.

Statewide, 54 percent of faculty at the state’s colleges and universities are classified as part-time, a study issued in December 2007 by the state Higher Education Department found.

The study also found that part-time instructors in New Mexico earn about $880 per credit hour, just about half of what full-time, non-tenure-track instructors earn at four-year institutions.

State Rep. Danice Picraux, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the legislation calling for the study.

Picraux, who teaches at the College of Santa Fe, said a plan needs to be made for part-time instructors and higher education institutions.

“We’re using them in a regular way. Let’s regularize their employment status in some way,” she said.

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