Does the environment matter? Faculty satisfaction at 4-year colleges and universities in the USA

Abstract

Faculty members seek employment in an environment that offers good fit and work satisfaction. As in other countries, higher education institutions in the USA vary by size, disciplinary focus, and emphasis on research. This study examined faculty satisfaction by institution type (baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and research) for recent full-time faculty members in 100 US 4-year institutions. Findings showed that, overall, satisfaction was highest for respondents in baccalaureate colleges. Subsequent analyses to examine strength of difference across institutional type confirmed initial differences for some facets of satisfaction, but not for others. Although differences that contributed to satisfaction by type were limited, results showed that faculty perceptions of the institutional environment firmly contribute to their satisfaction. Additional findings as well as policy and program implications are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Although it is debated in the literature, some scholars (e.g., Jackson and Corr 2002; Scarpello and Campbell 1983) assert that a single-item global measure of satisfaction has greater content validity and temporal reliability than a composite measure. For example, Jackson and Corr (2002) found that measures of individual facets of satisfaction did not predict overall satisfaction well; they propose that individuals do not consider each facet and its level of importance as a moderator, but instead use cognitive heuristics to achieve a global measure. Thus, when faculty members are ask to respond to “overall” satisfaction, it seems plausible that faculty members can consider multiple facets and then in a balanced way, respond to a global value.

  2. 2.

    The item wording If I had it to do all over, I would again choose to work at this institution positions satisfaction as a broad construct, prompting the respondent to consider the variety of roles and responsibilities each faculty member addresses in daily work. Similarly, the second dependent variable also seeks global satisfaction with one’s department, All things considered, your department is a good place to work.

  3. 3.

    It is possible that a faculty member moved to a different institution in a subsequent year that also administered the COACHE survey, but it is highly unlikely.

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Funding

This study was partially funded from the TIAA Institute. Findings and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent official views of the TIAA Institute or TIAA.

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Correspondence to Karen L. Webber.

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Table 6 Factor loadings and reliabilities

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Webber, K.L. Does the environment matter? Faculty satisfaction at 4-year colleges and universities in the USA. High Educ 78, 323–343 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0345-z

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Keywords

  • Faculty satisfaction
  • Organizational satisfaction
  • Faculty engagement
  • US faculty satisfaction