Surging enrollments at for-profit colleges have driven increases in staffing at those institutions, according to federal data released Wednesday.
Between 2008 and 2009, the for-profit sector posted double-digit percentage gains in the numbers of total employees, full- and part-time faculty, and executive staff, the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics' "Employees in Postsecondary Institutions" annual survey  revealed. Growth in the sector was such that for every two hires made in higher education during the past year, one was at a for-profit college.
Meanwhile, employment in the overall higher education sector edged up 2 percent between 2008 and 2009. To a large extent, this growth trend reflects the fact that there are far fewer for-profit colleges and staff members to begin with, and any fluctuations are likely to appear large when expressed as a percentage. The number of employees at public institutions remains approximately 10 times that of the for-profit institutions. On the other hand, the trend also reflects soaring enrollments  at the colleges, which experienced 21 percent growth between 2007 and 2008 , according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Strained state budgets and weak private endowments also were reflected in colleges' hiring patterns during the past year, as compared to the one before. Colleges across all sectors were far more likely to add part-time faculty than full-time professors or administrators. Hiring of part-time instructional staff, typically adjuncts, increased 7 percent between 2008 and 2009, while hiring of full-time instructors and administrators grew by 1 percent each. Nearly 6 out of every 10 employees added during the past year were part-time instructors.
In contrast, between 2007 and 2008, growth in administrative positions led the other categories, increasing at a rate of 5 percent, while the number of part-time faculty dropped slightly and the number of full-time instructors remained nearly level during that period. It is unclear whether administrative hiring flattened (and faculty positions grew) in response to critiques about administrative bloat on many campuses, or (perhaps more likely) the recent shifts reflect a response to meet the demands of surging enrollments driven by the poor economy.
The NCES report also shed light on the changing demographics of the professoriate. Women have grown more numerous in the ranks of faculty over the past six years. While men still account for about three-quarters of faculty members, the growth rates have favored women across all sectors of higher education. Since 2003, the number of men either decreased or increased slightly at public and private nonprofit colleges. In contrast, the number of women grew by approximately one-quarter or more.
The lone exception to the gender breakdown continued to be at two-year colleges, where more women than men are on the teaching staff.