Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Steven P. Myran

Committee Member

John A. Downey


As rural community colleges face mounting fiscal pressure, the ability to attract adjunct faculty members to support the institutional mission becomes increasingly important. Although the professional literature documents differences between rural, suburban, and urban community colleges, the effect of this institutional diversity on the role and attraction of adjunct faculty has not been explored. The purpose of this cross-sectional, national study of chief academic officers (CAOs) was to examine the impact of institutional type on the reliance on and demand for adjunct faculty across teaching disciplines and explore the applicability of the applicant attraction model (Rynes & Barber, 1990) to meet that demand.

An instrument was developed and validated to assess the level of reliance on and unmet demand for adjunct faculty, and the extent to which applicant attraction strategies are being used in the areas of recruitment, employment inducement, and the consideration of alternate applicant pools. The survey was electronically distributed to 887 CAOs of publicly-supported American Association of Community College member institutions. Rural institutions rely less on adjunct faculty than non-rural institutions, while both rural and urban institutions have high levels of unmet demand for adjunct faculty. This demand is evident in traditional high-demand disciplines of Natural and Physical Sciences, Engineering and Industrial Technologies, Health Technologies, and Nursing. Additionally, rural institutions have greater unmet need than suburban institutions in Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, and Computer Technologies. Limited applicant pools and difficulty competing for candidates are contributing factors. To meet the demand for adjuncts, institutions are using strategies consistent with the applicant attraction model in the areas of recruitment, employment inducement, and the consideration of alternate applicant pools, with rural institutions using strategies more frequently than non-rural institutions.

The study suggests methods for understanding the role of adjunct faculty and highlights attraction strategies being used in rural, suburban, and urban community colleges. Practitioners are advised to develop a strategic plan, based on the applicant attraction model, in which regional factors and institutional needs drive decisions about attraction strategies. Academic leaders are urged to recognize investment in adjunct faculty as an investment in the institution.


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