Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Larry G. Martin

Committee Members

Barbara J. Daley, Belle R. Ragins, Regina O. Smith, Alfonzo Thurman


Contingent Faculty, Higher Education, Part-Time Faculty, Proprietary Education, Psychological Contract, Urban Education


Even though proprietary colleges and universities continue to gain market share in the higher education landscape, negative perceptions about proprietary institutions remain including reliance on contingent faculty to meet fluctuating student enrollments. Little research about the experiences of contingent faculty teaching in proprietary settings exists, and even less research exists about the unwritten expectations, or psychological contracts, contingent faculty bring with them to the employment relationship with an institution. As heavy use of contingent faculty continues, campus administrators need a more comprehensive understanding of how to best manage the expectations, benefits, challenges, and resources of this type of employment relationship.

This qualitative inquiry study collected data using open, semi-structured interviews, then analyzed data using phenomenological research methods to better understand what contingent faculty teaching at urban, proprietary institutions experience. This study also used the organizing framework of psychological contracts in order to apply the findings into recommendations for campus administrators working with contingent faculty.

The results of this study indicate that a contingent faculty member's early experiences with an institution significantly determined the way the psychological contracts with the institution were formed and maintained in later experiences. For most, once the initial relationship was formed, little experienced afterwards changed the relationship with the exception of major changes regarding institutional focus and/ or position within the institution.

Consistent with the literature, contingent faculty perceiving their overall experiences and relationship with the institution as positive had longer tenure with the institution, identified more with the institution, and exhibited more organizational commitment behaviors. Contingent faculty perceiving their experiences as negative tended to have shorter tenures with their institutions, did not identify with the institution, and exhibited less organizational commitment behaviors. However, even though organizational practices and experiences varied greatly, two types of experiences and perceptions remained consistent. First, participants were surprised and disappointed in student level of preparation for college academic work yet expressed commitment to their students' success as greater than their commitment to institutional expectations. Second, participants expressed overall satisfaction with teaching experiences, and began to identify themselves as teachers, regardless of prior professional affiliation or relationship with the institution.