As the U.S. workforce becomes younger and more diverse, higher education leaders must adapt to accommodate the changing demographics, Shalina Chatlani reports for Education Dive.
According to William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution, racial minorities will account for all of the growth in the labor force within the next few decades. However, the growing diversity isn't reflected in faculty hiring trends. The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2013, 79% of full-time university faculty were white, 10% were Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% were black, and 5% were Hispanic. Meanwhile, other research shows that the percentage of faculty over age 65 has more than doubled since 2000.
The higher education industry is now forced to balance the needs of tenured faculty with new workforce demands. But institutions that fail to seek out more diverse faculty do a disservice to students, says Jerome Williams, executive vice chancellor and provost at Rutgers University-Newark.
"You look at the education industry—each year faculty get older, while the people you stand in front of are the same age, and each group comes in with their own contemporary values," Williams says. "Some of these professors have been around for 20 to 30 years and, unless they adapt, they are going to [be] out of touch and not be able to generate material that will resonate with students."
Williams notes that while educational attainment and discrimination have historically kept people of color from acquiring faculty positions, there is no reason why they should not be considered for jobs now.
"There are more and more people coming out with degrees, so it's not as difficult to recruit someone with a diverse background as it was in the past," he says. "If you are sticking to that you really aren't looking hard enough."
Institutions can also cater to older, tenured faculty by offering them retirement plans as an alternative to continued employment, as well as programs that promote workplace health and happiness.
Increasing faculty diversity is not only beneficial to students, but also to institutions as a whole, according to Williams.
"Administrators that go out and recruit and hire and make diversity a part of their strategic planning are going to fare better than those who do not. Otherwise, you are going to send a message to many students that this particular school might not be the one for them," Williams says (Chatlani, Education Dive, 8/1).
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