Graphic
|

At San Jose State Turns Out Student Attrition Has Nothing to Do With the Adjuncts

Ian E. McInness

On San Jose State University’s lush inner-city campus, students in their graduation gowns pose with their families in front of ivy-covered buildings.

They’re the lucky ones.

Just 10 percent of students graduate from this public university in four years. After six years, it’s only a bit more than half.

Think about that — of 100 students who enrolled four years ago, only 10 will walk across the stage this year.

That sounds low, but you can find these kind of numbers at lots of universities in the U.S.

What’s not typical is how San Jose State is tackling the problem.

Officials there did something radical: they phoned students who had dropped out and asked them why.

Up on the north side of campus, you’ll find Marcos Pizarro on the second floor of Clark Hall. At 6 feet 2, he’s nearly as tall as his tiny office is wide.

A professor of Mexican-American studies, Pizarro has been at San Jose State for 17 years.

All that time, he says, he has heard the same explanation about why the graduation rate is so low. It goes like this: “Well, they’re not as well-prepared, and they have a lot of other commitments.”

It’s true, he adds, many students here do come from underperforming schools. Pizarro knows because he has taught in those schools.

And a lot of them work full-time jobs — both to pay for college and to contribute to their families.

Yet, Pizarro adds, something else is true too: “They’re amazing. They’re really phenomenal.” In class, he says, these students are some of the most engaged, motivated and insightful people he has worked with.

So why aren’t they graduating?

When Pizarro started looking at the data, he found that San Jose State’s graduation rate is bad for all students. But for Latinos it’s really bad: Just 4.5 percent graduate in four years. African-Americans do only slightly better.

Pizarro couldn’t let this go. The more he thought about it, the more he realized he needed to talk to those students. Not the graduates. But the ones who left.

“We don’t do exit interviews,” Pizarro said. “It’s not just us. Nobody does exit interviews with students.”

Pizarro and a few colleagues obtained a grant, and they started calling up hundreds of San Jose State dropouts, with a focus on Latino and African-American students.

What emerged from these interviews were real institutional barriers.

And there was one final problem: The dropouts never felt part of the campus community.

The exit interviews, of sorts, revealed issues with class scheduling, advising and fitting in on campus, which has prompted initiatives at San Jose State to add classes, increase the number of advisors and bring students together.

When Lewis and Clark Community College leaders started tracking data to figure out how best to support students, for example, they found developmental education students had retention rates 10 percent higher than those who did not take remedial classes.

Over the past decade, there have been about a dozen studies, several of which sought to lay shrinking student success rates and rising student attrition rates at the feet of the growing numbers of non-tenured faculty hired to teach undergraduates. At San Jose State, the 26,664 undergraduate students at San Jose State University are taught by a total of 1,777 instructional staff. Adjusting these numbers to account for those with part-time status results in “full time equivalent” (FTE) counts. Using these FTE counts for students and staff results in a “student to instructor” ratio of 27 to 1. This places San Jose State University among the worst in terms of instructional attention. A slim percentage of the San Jose State instructors ( 39 percent ) are full-time.

While the exit interviews conducted at San Jose State are by no means definitive or scientific in nature, the results of the interviews are nonetheless significant. The students interviewed clearly identified institutional issues as the major roadblocks to their academic success.

In April, AdjunctNation Executive Editor P.D. Lesko wrote, “The persistence of the AAUP, AFT and NEA and their allies in perpetuating the myth that student retention and graduation rates have deteriorated because the number of adjunct faculty employed within higher education has increased, is nothing short of political maneuvering. The AAUP’s annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession is widely written about in the mainstream media and the mainstream media often repeat verbatim misinformation about the alleged destabilization of higher education by the two-tier system under which adjunct faculty are employed.”

Short URL: http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=7187

Leave a Reply

Keep in Touch With AdjunctNation

Graphic Graphic Graphic

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Archives

Graphic

From the Archive

  • Resources for Finding Work Abroad

    by Melissa Doak Looking for international work can be daunting—and downright frustrating without good resources. Fortunately, there are now many useful guides for job searches in almost any field or discipline in almost any country. However, you won’t find many of these published resources in your local bookstore. Some of the best guides, published by […]

  • Why We Decided To Form An Adjunct Union at Our Community College

    by Luke Niebler On my first day teaching at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, I was wracked with the normal anxieties of a new college instructor: What if the students don’t like me? What if my lesson plan falls apart? Where exactly is the copy machine? What if my hair looks stupid? […]

  • AFT Adopts Standards For P/T Faculty

    by Conrad de Aenlle A highlight of the 2002 AFT convention was adoption of “The Standards of Good Practice in the Employment of Part-time/ Adjunct Faculty: A Blueprint for Raising Standards and Ensuring Financial and Professional Equity.” The report documents the increasing exploitation of part-time and adjunct faculty. Part-timers now teach over 50 percent of […]

  • Getting the Tap: Securing Continuous Online Work

    by Steven N. Pyser, J.D. Whether from playing varsity football, neighborhood dodge ball, or attending the eighth grade dance with great optimism, we all remember the awkward moment waiting for an affirming tap on the shoulder–the signal one has been selected. Fast-forward the calendar. You are a credentialed, well-qualified and competent online faculty member. You […]

    This article is available for purchase for $1.00 if you do not have a subscription. If you do have a subscription, please [login] here to read the entire piece. If you do NOT have a subscription, please 
    Authorize.Net
    Authorize.Net processes AMEX, Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit card payments made online securely and safely. 
    Paypal Standard
    You do NOT need a PayPal account to use this payment method. PayPal allows credit card payments to be processed safely and securely. PayPal operates with credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts and PayPal accounts to make safe purchases online, without disclosing your credit card number or financial information. 
    to create an account which you will use to access the article you wish to purchase and read.
  • Contract Faculty Union Says Members Are “Free to Negotiate Individually for Better Terms”

    by Max Moran As the newly formed adjunct and contract-faculty union prepares for its fourth bargaining round with Brandeis University this month, officials on both sides say the negotiations thus far have been a positive experience. But the University has frozen wages and benefits for bargaining unit professors until a contract is reached, and the faculty union […]

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Recently Commented

  • Rick: If your looking for non-academic jobs, or “menial” jobs do not even mention your graduate...
  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...