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Last week’s story in Inside Higher Ed about Coconino Community College being forced to put its automotive program on hold for lack of faculty sounded familiar. The gist of the story was that the same hot hiring market that drives students towards a field also tends to keep people in the field from accepting a massive pay cut in order to teach it.

It’s a real issue, particularly in collective bargaining environments.

The piece below, originally published in July, captures the dilemma. Here’s hoping some wise and worldly readers have found other solutions. New replies welcome!

The great thing about teaching classes in high-demand fields is that students who make it through the program can get great jobs that pay well.

The frustrating thing about them is the difficulty of finding qualified faculty who are willing to forgo the kinds of salaries the students have in mind when they choose the field.

I recently spent years unsuccessfully trying to fill a position in cybersecurity. Qualified applicants could earn several multiples of the college’s annual salary by working in industry. The magnitude of the cut we were asking them to take was just too much.

(For context, public institutions with unions don’t always have the ability to ignore incumbent salary schedules.)

The same market that entices students also entices prospective faculty.

The Stanfords of the world, I assume, can buy their way out of the issue. But most community colleges are pretty limited in the ability to do that. Even if there were political and/or legal room, there often isn’t budgetary room.

So I’m writing in hopes that someone has seen around this corner and come up with a reasonably elegant (and ethical) workaround.

Has anyone out there found a sustainable way to get and keep faculty in the kinds of fields in which they could easily earn triple the usual faculty pay? If so, I’d love to hear about it. I can be reached at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter (@deandad).

Thanks in advance!

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