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Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes

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  • Eric P. Bettinger

    (Stanford University and NBER)

  • Bridget Terry Long

    (Harvard Graduate School of Education and NBER)

Abstract

Higher education has increasingly relied on part-time, adjunct instructors. Critics argue that adjuncts reduce educational quality because they often have less education than full-time professors. On the other hand, by specializing in teaching or being concurrently employed, adjuncts could enhance learning experiences. This paper quantifies how adjuncts affect subsequent student interest and course performance relative to full-time faculty using an instrumental variable strategy that exploits variation in the composition of a department's faculty over time. The results suggest that adjuncts often have a small, positive effect on enrollment patterns, especially in fields related to particular occupations. © 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Does Cheaper Mean Better? The Impact of Using Adjunct Instructors on Student Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(3), pages 598-613, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:3:p:598-613
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