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Community colleges confront hiring challenges

University Business, December 2018
STAFFING SHIFTS—Study shows changes in higher ed hiring from 2016 to 2017 and teaching trends at two- and four-year schools.
STAFFING SHIFTS—Study shows changes in higher ed hiring from 2016 to 2017 and teaching trends at two- and four-year schools.

Community colleges have seen a drop in faculty employment applications at the same time those institutions take longer to make new hires, according to a 2017 survey released in October by software provider PowerSchool.

Two-year institutions also face increased turnover among baby boom-generation administrators who are retiring in large numbers, says Sara Winchester, vice president of finance and administration at Ocean County College in New Jersey.

Of the 19 community colleges in her state, 11 have hired new presidents in the past two years, and seven have had to replace the vice president of academic affairs, Winchester says. “That’s a tremendous amount of change. It can lead to the kind of leadership void that we don’t like to see.”

A decrease in unemployment in New Jersey has made it harder to find instructors, particularly adjuncts, in subjects such as accounting and science. “The qualified applicants are working during the day,” Winchester says.

Colleges are now leveraging new software to fine-tune the hiring process. Ocean County College, for example, uses its HR software to keep track of qualified applicants who aren’t hired the first time they apply. “We can highlight them as candidates for another position we know is on the horizon,” she says.

To reduce hiring pressures, institutions must plan for when they will need adjuncts, rather than bringing on new staff at the last minute, says Rishi Rana, PowerSchool’s general manager for higher education.

A more developed onboarding process and enhanced professional development will give all new hires a greater sense of attachment to an institution where they can grow their skills. “All this says you can be part of long-term growth,” Rana adds.