A new Achieving the Dream (ATD) initiative recognizes that adjunct faculty are more valuable to their students if they have access to professional development, information about college support programs, data on student performance and progress, and the informal knowledge already known by their full-time faculty peers.


Community colleges are becoming increasingly reliant on adjunct faculty and the field expertise they bring to the classroom. Frequently, however, colleges lack the resources to fully train adjunct faculty about student services, leaving many adjuncts unaware and unable to refer students to the academic, advising and financial aid resources available. This can have an even greater impact on low-income students, students of color and first-generation students who often find a college environment unfamiliar and intimidating.

Additionally, while adjuncts' real-world knowledge provides a tremendous benefit to all students, there can be gaps in teaching skills and methods when compared with their full-time faculty peers. For at-risk students, teacher engagement and instructional quality are critical to academic success.


Achieving the Dream has selected six of its Leader Colleges for the Engaging Adjunct Faculty in the Student Success Movement project. The participating colleges are Harper College (Illinois), Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland), Patrick Henry Community College (Virginia), Delta College (Michigan), Community College of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), and Renton Technical College (Washington).

This initiative will develop or strengthen college policies and practices that build leadership opportunities for adjunct faculty, improve professional development activities and engage all faculty in student-focused reform efforts. The program also intends to improve teaching quality and better leverage the adjuncts' skills and experiences to enhance the student learning experience. Each college received $160,000 to support these efforts over the next two years.

In partnership with The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, we provided $696,000 to support this project. In our commitment to learning what works, the majority of our grant allows ATD to partner with the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University. CCRC will document and share knowledge gained about designing and implementing scalable professional learning opportunities, engagement strategies and campus policies to improve adjunct faculty's instructional quality and level of institutional engagement, as well as impact on student outcomes.

In fall 2016, CCRC conducted its first faculty survey at the six participating colleges to establish a set of baseline data. The survey results clearly demonstrated the need for this work: Statistically significant differences were noted between full-time and part-time faculty on a number of measures. Specifically, part-time faculty feel less encouraged to attend committee meetings, department faculty meetings and meetings outside of their department. Part-time faculty also report lower levels of engagement when it comes to collaborating with colleagues, accessing a mentor and tracking student performance.

In November 2018 CCRC released the brief, “Understanding the Needs of Part-Time Faculty at Six Community Colleges,” which analyzes interview, focus group and survey data to explore the experiences of part-time faculty and outlines several types of supports ATD is offering to participating colleges. This project was extended to November 2019, when CCRC will release their final report.


Contact Senior Program Officer Sue Cui at scui@ascendiumeducation.org.