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U.S. Schools Take Global Perspective to Address Faculty Shortages

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

American universities are experiencing some of the highest levels of enrollment ever seen. The burgeoning number of students, especially in high-demand fields such as health care and business, however, has created a different problem for the schools: a lack of qualified professors to teach the students. American graduate schools have not been producing enough grads who are remaining in academia to keep up with undergraduate enrollment.
In some of the most popular areas of study, such as nursing and accounting, grads with bachelor's degrees are able to begin a relatively well-paying career right out of school. For many, this creates a disincentive to return to school for an advanced degree. A lack of properly credentialed faculty members can, in turn, affect a school's ability to remain accredited.
Community colleges, in particular, are susceptible to this problem. Such schools account for a large percentage of the trained nurses in the U.S., many of whom go on to universities to earn four-year degrees. At the same time, community colleges are struggling to lure master’s and doctoral-level nurses to their faculties. For example, Inside Higher Ed reported that Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio has been in danger of losing its accreditation for the last few years due to its lack of faculty with graduate credentials.
It's not just community colleges that are suffering, though. A university in Pennsylvania had its nursing school's accreditation revoked, due to a lack of graduate-level professors on its faculty, which, in turn, drew a lawsuit from enrolled students. Universities in Georgia are facing a faculty shortfall of nearly 10 percent with position vacancies that date back to 2009. Even Baltimore-based healthcare juggernaut Johns Hopkins University has reported difficulty keeping its faculty positions filled.
The Solution May Lie Outside U.S. Borders
In order to address the shortfall, some schools have expanded their pool of candidates by looking to internationally-trained PhDs or by trying to entice non-U.S. citizen graduate students to remain in the country after they earn degrees at American universities. While this is not a complete solution to the problem of too-few graduate students -- compensation will always enter the conversation when trying to convince professionals to leave a lucrative private career for the halls of academia -- a global view does enhance a school's chances for filling faculty vacancies.
Clearly, one of the hurdles a school will face when launching a global recruitment effort is U.S. immigration policy. By partnering with a legal team that understands what it takes to secure the appropriate work credentials, though, university search committees can spend more time vetting qualified candidates and less time worrying about whether the candidate will be allowed to work in the United States.
Establishing a relationship with legal experts who are experienced in helping people with extraordinary abilities and talents to work in the U.S. should be part of a school's initial recruitment plan. This way, a college or university can address legal obstacles before beginning the recruitment process, and continue to do so in future recruiting efforts.

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