This paper summarizes recent evidence on the trends in contingency in higher education. Contingent faculty employment, defined as the sum of full-time non-tenure track faculty employment and part-time faculty employment, increased both absolutely and relative to all faculty positions between 2002 and 2015, despite a modest downturn after 2011. The long-term growth of contingency since 2002 has primarily occurred in doctoral degree universities. The short-term decline in contingency since 2011 has primarily occurred in public associates’ degree colleges and in private for-profit colleges. The short-term decline in contingency since 2011 is due to the contraction of the for-profit sector combined with a one-time drop in public associates’ degree colleges. The explanation of the long-term growth of contingency as an inevitable response to financial exigency is rejected. Contingency has increased due to the priorities of higher education administrators, not state budget cuts or other drops in revenue.



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