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HigherEdJobs' Report Shows Growth in University-level Positions

For the first time in more than a year, good news has surfaced for those aspiring to work in higher education. According to a report conducted by HigherEdJobs, a posting site for university-level positions, higher education jobs increased by 0.2 percent in this latest quarter after four previous quarters of decline.

This modest yet welcomed increase of 3,200 new jobs comes after a year that saw 57,500 jobs cut from higher education, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After so many months of decline, John Ikenberry, president of HigherEdJobs, cautions those who are overly optimistic about the uptick.

“I think one thing to keep in mind is that while employment is up in higher education, it is important to really have tempered excitement here,” Ikenberry said. “We’re only talking about an increase of 0.2 percent or an increase of 3,200 jobs in an industry that employs close to 3 million people.”

The Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, lagged behind all other regions with just a 2.8 percent change in job growth when compared to last quarter. The Mountain region of the country faired the best with a 41.5 percent change in job growth.

Ikenberry added: “I think it’s welcomed news that the numbers are not negative for the first time in a year – I think that that’s exciting.” However, “we’ll have to wait to see how things look next quarter,” he warned.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2013 data, Pennsylvania employs 72,470 in postsecondary education, including graduate teaching assistants.

HigherEdJobs analyzed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data as well as job postings on their site. The group noticed an overall increase in the amount of job postings and the number of positions available in higher education.

“We do look at trends in hiring for faculty versus hiring for administrators and executives,” Ikenberry said. “The trends that we are seeing at that level are a continual slow increase in the share of postings that are for administrators and executives.”

HigherEdJobs found that 70 percent of those job postings were for administrative and executive positions, following a trend of increasing numbers of those positions when compared to openings for full-time faculty members.  

Two separate findings from HigherEdJobs’ third quarter analysis also point to other trends occurring in academia: a steady growth of part-time faculty positions as opposed to full-time positions and a decline in community college funding and resources.

Thirty-one percent of job postings for faculty positions in this latest quarter were for part-time positions – up from roughly 20 percent two years ago.

“This has been a time for institutions to tighten their belts,” Ikenberry said.

Perhaps more alarming was that community colleges actually suffered in this third quarter, losing 2,600 jobs while four year institutions saw a 5,800 job increase.

While large universities have research money, endowments, and tuition discretion to help balance budgets, community colleges are much more dependent on government support.

“While things are up, I do not know that I would necessarily see this as really a strong indication that things are moving in a positive direction,” Ikenberry said.

When taken all together, the 0.2 percent increase in higher education job growth compares unfavorably to an overall 2 percent growth in the total U.S. economy in the third quarter of this year.