Survey Finds Signs of Faculty Optimism, Even As New Demands of Job Emerge
Course Hero, an online learning platform that serves 150,000 educators across the world, announced findings in a new survey of over 1,000 higher education faculty members in the US, providing insights on their perceptions of career prospects, higher education value, and institutional changes. More than 80% of faculty report that they feel positive or very positive about their career prospects in higher education, but stress remains– and new concerns are emerging.
Job satisfaction seems to be on the upswing following the pandemic. A Course Hero survey in September 2020 found that roughly 40% of all faculty respondents were considering leaving their job as a result of COVID-19-related impacts; in the survey released today, only 28% of faculty respondents said they would leave their job in the next year if they could.
At the same time, faculty — particularly women — still report stress as a top consideration for leaving the profession, and the growing demands placed on faculty due to the student mental health crisis and uncertainty caused by emerging technologies threaten to exacerbate stress or burnout.
“Higher education faculty– like their classroom peers in K-12 schools– are increasingly serving as mental health support, in addition to their roles as educators,” said Sean Michael Morris, Vice President of Academics at Course Hero. “Creating the right support systems and professional communities for our faculty enables them to effectively support students in the long term, while also preserving their own wellbeing.”
With rates of depression and anxiety at an all-time high for college students across the country, faculty are increasingly on the front lines of the student mental health crisis. 46% of faculty respondents reported that their students come to them with a mental health concern multiple times per month or more. About one in five faculty respondents (21%) say they receive mental-health-related requests for extensions or accommodations weekly or multiple times a week.
“When universities prioritize the well-being of their faculty, an environment is created where faculty feel valued and supported in their work, which fosters creativity, collaboration, and professional dedication, all leading to a better learning experience for students,” said Stephanie Speicher, Assistant Professor and the Digital Fluency Faculty in Residence at Weber State University.
Generative artificial intelligence adds a new layer of uncertainty for faculty: respondents were mixed on whether their institution was moving too slow, too fast, or about right when it came to both finding ways to utilize generative AI as well as developing protections or guidelines related to the use of generative AI. Younger faculty (Gen Z and Millennials) were more likely to say the pace of adoption is too fast, while half of all respondents from the Baby Boomer generation said they didn’t know about their institution’s pace of change regarding the adoption of generative AI.
These additional pressures add up for faculty navigating their own mental health: 43% of respondents say that over the previous six months, either they or another faculty member they know have faced personal mental health concerns multiple times a month or more– including 23% who reported issues occurring weekly or more.
- Despite optimism, stress remains, especially for female faculty: 52% of women who indicated they would leave higher ed within a year if they could said stress and burnout were a reason to leave. Compensation was tied with stress among women (52%) but was the top choice for male faculty members who indicated they wanted to leave the profession (44%). Only 38% of men chose stress or burnout as a reason why they want to leave higher education.
- Women’s stress levels reflect similar findings during the pandemic: 58% of women in Course Hero’s September 2020 survey reported a significant increase in stress or emotional exhaustion in that survey, compared to 39% of men.
- Faculty seek impact: Faculty (56% of men and 49% of women) say they chose the profession to teach students and have an impact on their lives.
- 61% of faculty cited graduation as one of the best three measures of student success, followed by job placement at 51% and grades at 43%.
- 85% of respondents agree or strongly agree that their institution provides students with a quality education.
- Compensation, culture and tech support matter: When asked for changes that institutions could make to improve job satisfaction, money and tech rose to the top. The top 5 choices for ways to improve job satisfaction were:
- Increased compensation (41%)
- New technology or better access to technology support (29%)
- Campus culture (26%)
- Improved access to mental health/wellness services for students (25%)
- Increased support from staff/teaching assistants (25%)
Course Hero commissioned the survey of 1,002 faculty from across the country. Responses were captured using a panel of respondents from Qualtrics and were gathered from April 4-20, 2023. Of the respondents, 59% work in a four-year institution, whereas 31% work in a two-year institution, and over half (55%) of respondents work in public institutions. 49% of respondents noted they had tenure, 24% were tenure-track, and 28% self-identified as contingent or other. Learn more and read the survey’s complete findings here.