Four of the state's 12 community colleges: Manchester Community College, top left; Gateway Community College, bottom left; Quinebaug Valley Community College, top right; and Tunxis Community College.

I am writing in support S.B. 1105,– An Act Concerning The Percentage of Courses Taught by Part-Time Faculty At the Regional, Community-Technical Colleges — a bill that has the potential to become historic legislation.

S.B. 1105 would dramatically improve teaching and learning on our college campuses. It would also address the longstanding, dishonorable overreliance on exploited part-time labor to teach the vast majority of students on community college campuses.

SB 1105 would require the Board of Regents to permit no more than 45% of courses taught by part-time faculty after July 1, 2025, no more than 35% after July 1, 2026, and no more than 25% of such courses after July 1, 2027.

At the moment, approximately 75% of all classes taught on community college campuses in Connecticut are taught by adjunct faculty. The state of Connecticut currently has the fourth highest ratio of part-time to full-time faculty in two-year public institutions in America.

Strategic use of adjunct faculty is a way to provide diversity and expertise that is not available from full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty also provide flexibility for administrators when they need to add additional sections of a class or help build a program until full-timers can be hired.

It is not a way to run an entire system that serves our most diverse constituencies and communities.

Our current teaching workforce at community colleges in Connecticut is overwhelmingly staffed by an exploited, underpaid, precarious faculty underclass that does not have the supports and resources needed to best serve our students in our colleges.

A recent survey of adjunct faculty by A Better Connecticut Institute and our higher education unions (AFT, 4Cs, CSU-AAUP) found many adjunct faculty in our system face significant financial struggles and hardship. These survey findings, the Institute notes, “paint a picture of a higher education system in moral crisis.”

Over 1,000 adjunct faculty responded to this survey, and the findings were troubling:

  • 28% of survey respondents reported difficulty affording necessities, including utilities and health care
  • 15% reported applying for government benefits programs including HUSKY and SNAP
  • 10% reported currently experiencing housing precarity
  • 50% reported struggling financially

Equally troubling is this fact: students attending predominantly white campuses in Connecticut have a greater chance to study with full-time professors than those who attend much more diverse community colleges.

What we see at UConn, ECSU and MCC, for example, is that as Hispanic/Latino and Black student population increases from 16% to 22% to 41% respectively, the utilization of part-time, non-tenure track faculty also increases from 33% to 59% to 78%.

SB 1105 would end racialized austerity in Connecticut public higher education.

SB 1105 would give students at our state’s community colleges the same opportunities to study with full-time professors as students attending state universities and UConn.

U.S., Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently called for “a culture change in higher education.” Cardona has suggested that we pay less attention to so-called “elite,” wealthy institutions and focus, instead, on “institutions that serve the most students with the most to gain from a college degree.” These institutions include community colleges, HBCUs, tribal colleges, and Hispanic-serving institutions. Secretary Cardona critiqued the current state of affairs in higher education very bluntly. He noted that “institutions that serve the most students with the most to gain from a college degree have the fewest resources to invest in student success.”

This bill would address that inequity directly.

Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey, nationally recognized authorities on labor issues in higher education, report that recent research suggests the rising numbers of part-time faculty, their working conditions, and the lack of support they receive from their institutions are having an adverse impact on various measures of student success.

Examples include diminished graduation and retention rates, decreased likelihood of transfer from two- to four-year institutions, lower grade point averages, and greater difficulty with major selection and persistence; these outcomes were often disproportionately experienced by students who were beginning their postsecondary education, including those in developmental or remedial courses. (see also Childress; Kezar et al.; and Kezar and Maxey “Selected Research on Connections between Non-Tenure Faculty and Student Learning”)

Kezar and Maxey also report that “although interactions and relationships with faculty members are strong predictors of learning among nearly all groups of students, they have been found to be strongest for students of color.”

This is equity and social justice public policy.

This legislation has the potential to become a national model for rebuilding community colleges will full-time faculty who have the time, professional resources, and mandate to advise, mentor, teach, and support our amazing community college students.

This is brave and important legislation.

I urge the legislature to support this bill.

Patrick Sullivan teaches English at Manchester Community College.