Report 2000-107 Summary - June 2000

California Community Colleges:

Part-Time Faculty Are Compensated Less Than Full-Time Faculty for Teaching Activities


The California Community Colleges (CCC) system is composed of 108 colleges organized into 72 districts that serve more than 1.4 million students statewide. Under the direction of the CCC board of governors, the Chancellor's Office provides statewide guidance and leadership to the community colleges. In addition, the voters in each district elect a board of trustees charged with developing local policies that govern the day-to-day operations at the district's colleges, including overseeing the compensation of teaching faculty and other employees. For the fall 1999 semester, the districts reported to the Chancellor's Office a total population of 41,754 teaching faculty, of which 28,180 (67 percent) were classified as part-time and 13,574 (33 percent) as full-time.

Districts within the CCC system have increasingly turned to part-time faculty (faculty teaching no more than 60 percent of a full-time course load within one district) to provide instruction to their students. Over the past five years, the percentage of credit teaching conducted by part-time faculty has grown from 40 percent to 47 percent. This trend to increasingly rely on part-time faculty also prevails in the teaching of core classes such as math, science, English, and history.

Overall, part-time faculty earn lower wages and receive fewer benefits for teaching activities than full-time faculty with similar education and experience. Specifically, at the eight districts we reviewed, if part-time faculty were to teach a full course load at their current pay, they would receive an average of $13,042 (or 31 percent) less in annual wages than full-time faculty for teaching activities. In addition, none of the eight districts enhance the pay rate of part-time faculty who have more education and experience as attractively as they do for their full-time instructors. Also, by working in more than one district, some part-time faculty teach as many classes as full-time faculty but receive less for their efforts. Furthermore, the eight districts either do not provide medical benefits to part-time faculty or provide such benefits with restrictions that are not imposed on full-time faculty. Finally, it is more difficult for part-time faculty to obtain the retirement benefits provided to full-time faculty.

Depending on one's policy perspective, the unequal compensation of part-time faculty either creates problems that should be addressed or reflects an appropriate balance of market conditions at the local level that should not be tampered with. In particular, all of the eight districts we reviewed indicated that the existing pay disparity between part-time and full-time faculty creates a financial incentive to use part-time faculty over full-time faculty. This incentive is not in keeping with current Chancellor's Office standards, which stress the importance of maintaining a balance between part-time and full-time faculty to ensure the quality of a CCC education. Furthermore, legislative intent, Chancellor's Office policy, and some district administrators' views support equal pay for equal work for part-time faculty. The general argument is that since the colleges hold part-time faculty to the same standards as full-time faculty, they should offer them the same pay. On the other hand, the former governor, the Chancellor's Office, and certain district administrators oppose mandating equal pay for equal work because it would interfere with the collective bargaining process and limit local flexibility.

The condition of unequal pay for part-time faculty prevails because districts have been able to attract significant numbers of part-time faculty who are willing to work for less pay than full-time faculty. Most districts defend their extensive use of part-time faculty and their lower rate of pay by citing their dependence on the State for the majority of their financial resources, stating that these funds are not sufficient to meet all their needs.

The Legislature has two options if it chooses to address the issue of unequal pay for part-time instructors, each with a different fiscal impact. One option would be to increase the pay of all part-time faculty to match what full-time faculty presently earn on a pro rata basis for teaching activities. The other option would be to raise the level of pay of part-time instructors whose primary employment is college teaching. We estimate an annual fiscal impact ranging from $18 million to $144 million to implement these options.


Should the Legislature decide to address the issue of unequal pay of part-time faculty for teaching activities in California Community Colleges, it could consider one of the following two options:

  • To maintain local control in establishing pay for teaching activities, the Legislature could establish a program that provides additional funding to those districts that establish equal pay scales for teaching activities for their part-time and full-time faculty. The objective of this option is to eliminate, for all part-time teaching faculty, the existing pay differences for teaching activities that currently exist between part-time and full-time faculty. We estimate this option to cost about $144 million annually.

  • Rather than eliminate the pay difference for all part-time teaching faculty, the Legislature could opt to establish a program to remove the pay difference for only a portion of part-time teaching faculty based on workload. The objective of this approach would be to raise the level of pay of part-time instructors whose primary employment is college teaching while leaving at a lower level the pay of part-time instructors who generally only teach one or two classes a term and have regular employment in another occupation. We estimate the annual cost for this program would range from $18 million to $38 million.

The Chancellor's Office stated that it believes that our audit report provided some useful insights and analysis regarding compensation patterns. It regrets that the complete study envisioned in AB 420 (Chapter 738, Statutes of 1999) that was to be performed by the California Postsecondary Education Commission has not been completed and made some specific observations and comments about the findings, options, and recommendations presented in the report.