The Employment Dilemma of Summer Teaching

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, May 24, 2013

For most academic institutions, it is the summer break.  Many students are away from campus pursuing that internship or summer employment that will boost their resume, or simply  taking some time for a little rest and relaxation.

One of the interesting employment dilemmas for colleges and universities involves summer teaching.  They want to serve the interests of students by offering a diverse array of classes so that a student can get ahead if he or she wishes to graduate early, or so a student who may have withdrawn from, or failed a class can make those credits up.

However, many faculty are on 9-months contract that covers only fall and spring semesters.  Summer teaching provides an additional stipend or an opportunity to offer a class that might not typically fit into the semester rotation.  Yet, there are opportunity costs - teaching in the summer takes time away from leisure, time away from family, or, for many, time needed to work on research and scholarship that could not fit into a busy semester schedule of teaching, service to the college or university through committee governance, and advising.

The challenge for many academic institutions is to find the price point that will be attractive to students to take away their own opportunity costs of leisure and/or summer employment, yet offering a stipend significant enough to entice a faculty member to incur those opportunity costs, while providing an additional source of revenue to meet budgetary demands.  

For some colleges, the stipend offered might be a percentage of salary, say 6-8%.  For others, it might be based on some combination of academic rank and student enrollment (i.e., a full stipend if some threshold is reached, say 8 students, but only 75% of that amount if only 6 students are enrolled).  

With the latter, the situation is complicated by when the college sets that enrollment date.  Does the college set it two weeks prior to the start of the summer session, and risk the enrollment numbers dropping by the time the class begins, resulting in less revenue for the institution?  

Or, does the college base the enrollment on those remaining in the class after the drop/add deadline, and shift the risk to the faculty member?  That faculty member might have reached the full threshold by the first day of class, only to find his or her stipend reduced, through no fault of his or her own, when some students drop the class.

Just another HR challenge faced by your colleges and universities every year.

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