Projected national faculty shortage hits NIU

By Stewart Warren

A national higher education faculty shortage projected for the mid-1990s already has hit NIU, according to assistant provost Frank Nowik.

A recent survey by the American Council on Education said half the universities involved in the study are having to take more time to find qualified full-time faculty.

Nationally, the shortage is in many areas from computer science to the health fields. The factors contributing to the shortage are the large number of retiring faculty members, inadequate number of doctorate holders, a growing student enrollment, the large number of Ph.D.‘s choosing private industry over education and the number of doctorial degrees earned by foreigners, according to the study printed in the July 25 issue of the Chicago Tribune.

NIU is not an exception. Nowik has noticed that when searching for new NIU faculty members he must often settle for his second or third choice.

He said there is lot of competition for qualified instructors. Many of the best people can pick and choose where they would like to work. “We have lost people on salary, research facilities and research support issues,” he said.

The current average age of NIU professors will further aggravate the future shortage problem, Nowik said. There is a tremendous concentration of instructors between the ages of 45 and 55 at NIU, he said. “By the year 2000 it’s possible we’ll turn 50 percent of the faculty over,” he said.

Kenneth Beasley, assistant to NIU President John La Tourette, said the surge of enrollment in the ’60s forced universities to hire more faculty members. Now those instructors are at or nearing retirement age.

NIU’s early retirement program also adds to the problem. The program offers qualified employees the chance to retire at age 55. If instructors chose to retire early, the shortage is increased.

Jim Miller, undergraduate director of the English department, said, “Apparently it is changing from a buyer’s market to a seller’s.”

Miller said previously the English department would try to hire people and there would be a number of applicants for the position. “These people would not have had a lot of offers,” he said.

Now the English department finds there seems to be more positions available in comparison to the number of applicants applying. “The time may not be too far away where there are more positions than applicants,” Miller said.