Enrollment, affordability lead to rise in NTE instruction

Meeting coverage

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert presented his annual update on instruction done by non-tenure-eligible (NTE) faculty at the Dec. 12 Faculty Senate meeting.

The Faculty Handbook, following teaching percentage thresholds recommended by the American Association of University Professors, limits NTE instruction to 15 percent university-wide and 25 percent within departments.

"The level of instruction done by non-tenture-eligible faculty is really vital to the university for executing our mission in an era of growing and large enrollment and pretty tight resources," Wickert said.

Using data from last year's AAUP (American Association of University Professors) annual compensation study, Wickert showed that NTE faculty appointments make up 17.4 percent of Iowa State's total faculty, near the average (19.5 percent) and median (15 percent) among 10 peer institutions. Penn State and Ohio State universities had the highest (35) and lowest (9.7) percentages in that group, respectively.

"We're not remarkably out of whack relative to our peer group, in terms of the number of NTE faculty appointments that we have institution-wide," Wickert said.

Wickert also shared instructional FTEs (full-time equivalents) to illustrate the distribution of full- and part-time teaching responsibilities among faculty (tenured, tenure-eligible and NTE), staff and graduate students. Non-teaching faculty, such as clinicians or full-time extension appointments, are not calculated in the instructional FTEs.

Instructional FTEs

Fall 2017

Fall 2016

Fall 2015

Tenured, tenure-eligible








Graduate assistants




Total FTEs




The percentage of instruction done by NTE faculty and staff and was measured three ways:

  • Section credits, 34.8 percent
  • Student credit hours, 41 percent
  • Course sections, 33.6 percent

"Those numbers vary, depending on how you count, but the overall picture is very consistent across those three measures," Wickert said.

Based on section credits, 35 of 56 departments exceed the Faculty Handbook's 25 percent threshold. That number rises to 36 when using student credit hours and course section calculations. Five departments exceed 50 percent NTE instruction (section credits) -- Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication (63.2 percent), world languages and cultures (55.4), English (54), accounting (53.7) and natural resource ecology and management (52.1).

Wickert pointed to several factors contributing to more NTE instruction:

  • Enrollment growth
  • Affordability
  • Teaching and research balance for tenure/tenure-track faculty
  • Partner accommodations and dual career hires
  • Practitioner experience for capstone and case-based learning

"The institutional numbers are the super-position of many, many decisions that are made in each academic department -- based on teaching needs, faculty activities, research activity and the budgetary environment," Wickert said.

Mark Westgate, a professor in agronomy, asked Wickert about the relevance of the 25 percent threshold.

"I think it should be a conversation," Wickert said. "A lot has changed in the past 15 years, here and nationally in higher education. I think it will continue to be a very important conversation point and important accountability for me and the deans to report to the senate about the composition of the faculty."

New degrees

Senators unanimously approved three academic programs, including:

  • A minor in textile design, offered by the art and visual culture, and apparel, events and hospitality management departments
  • A Bachelor of Science in actuarial science, offered by the College of Business and the math and statistics departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • A Bachelor of Science in data science, offered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Language changes in the Faculty Handbook's policy on unacceptable performance of duty also was approved. The update more clearly defines the policy to include tenure-eligible and NTE faculty, not just tenured faculty.

January votes

Five business items were introduced for consideration and a vote at the January senate meeting. Updated language for the course catalog would add an option for instructors and departments to use administrative drops when students don't meet the course prerequisites.

"This has been a real challenge, in terms of students taking courses they aren't prepared for," said Tim Bigelow, chair of the senate's academic affairs council.

Bigelow's committee also proposed updated eligibility requirements for students returning after a minimum five-year absence (academic renewal). The change would require students to be in good academic standing -- a minimum 2.0 grade point average -- after one semester, rather than the first year.

"It's basically a way for these students to have a fresh start and, ultimately, be successful," Bigelow said.

A recommended change to the major sanction process in the Faculty Handbook (section removes a step referring to a review by an administrative law judge through the state's Administrative Procedure Act. It would not eliminate the option, but would remove the state-level review from procedures outlining ISU's internal and peer-reviewed processes.

Finally, two degree programs also were proposed:

  • A master's degree in real estate development, an interdisciplinary degree involving five departments -- architecture; civil, construction and environmental engineering; community and regional planning; finance; and management
  • A doctorate in population sciences in animal health, administered by the veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine department. The program is intended to prepare graduates to "respond to health and welfare issues in animal populations through research, education, clinical medicine, extension and outreach."