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A Rise in Job Satisfaction Among Faculty Since Pandemic

A new study by Course Hero, an online learning platform for educators, suggests that a rise in job satisfaction among faculty has improved since the start of the pandemic. During a time when educator retention is experiencing a sharp decline, the data suggests a trend of positive experiences and feelings by educators who are making moves to stay in their field, even as new concerns are emerging in academia. 

This survey provides insights on educators' feelings towards career prospects, higher education value, emotional wellbeing and institutional changes.  

About 1,000 higher education faculty members in the United States were surveyed. Sean Michael Morris, vice president of academics at Course Hero and co-founder of Digital Pedagogy Lab, said that he excited about the positive upturn that is happening within higher education. 

“It was really wonderful for me to see that people are feeling positive about their professional lives in education,” said Morris. “They're feeling like, 'I want to stay. I want to make an impact on students. Like, I'm here for a good reason and I want to stick around.'” Istockphoto 1250051261 612x612

According to the survey, about 28 percent of faculty respondents said they would leave their job in the next year if they could. In a similar survey published by Course Hero in September 2020, about 40 percent of all faculty respondents were considering leaving their job as a result of COVID-19 related impacts.  

Though the positive results of the survey provide Morris and his team optimism, there were other concerning facts that were revealed in the results. Women faculty reported stress as a top consideration for leaving the profession and cited the growing demands placed on faculty due to the student mental health crisis and uncertainty caused by emerging technologies.  

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) women make up the majority of non tenure-track faculty across institutions in higher education. Only 44 percent of tenure-track faculty and 36 percent of full professors are women. Women are still paid less than men at every faculty rank and in most positions within institutional leadership. This includes a 20 percent gender pay gap among college administrators.  Additionally, women college presidents experience a pay gap of under 10 percent. Women of color are especially underrepresented in the faculty ranks. Only 5.2 percent of tenured faculty are Black and 6.6 percent are Latinx work at bachelor's granting institutions.  

Dr. Jesse Stommel, co-founder and executive director of Hybrid Pedagogy Lab at the University of Denver, found that emotional labor and care for students particularly impacted faculty from marginalized communities. 

“Faculty from marginalized populations, women, faculty, LGBTQ faculty, other minoritized faculty [including], Indigenous faculty, Black faculty are also more likely to hear from students who are struggling,” said Stommel. “And that's in part because they see those faculty members experiencing some of that struggle themselves.” 

About 45 percent of faculty report that their students ask for mental health-based accommodations or work extensions once or multiple times a month. Additionally, 21 percent say that they receive these requests once a week or more. 

Faculty themselves were also not immune to mental health fatigue and crisis. Overall, 43 percent of faculty reported that they or a faculty member they know have faced a personal mental health issue more than monthly on average over the last six months.  

Dr. Nicole Jones Young, an associate professor of Organizational Behavior in Business, Organizations, and Society Department at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, said she has noticed the emotional labor that is often placed on faculty of color. She notes that there is not a one fix all answer to the problems that faculty experience. 

“I think there are a variety of different needs that people have,” said Young. “And so it's important to get a sense of what those are," she said.

For Morris, he hopes that the survey results will not only bring a bit of positive news to institutions, but said that he wants institutions to do more for their faculty and push the conversation forward. 

“So, I hope that the message can get out to institutions to say, 'Hey, look, things are starting to look up,'” said Morris. “Take advantage of this momentum and support your faculty, because that's absolutely key to making education work."

Veronica Fernandez-Alvarado can be reached at 

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