U.S. colleges and universities have earned a global reputation for addressing societal problems, but many of those same institutions appear to be confounded by a challenge taking shape on their own campuses: a growing number of aging (if not aged) faculty members with no plans to retire.

That’s the key takeaway from a new demographic analysis by Richard A. Skinner, PhD, a two-time former university president and senior consultant with the executive recruiting firm Harris Search Associates.

“A prolonged period of little or no turnover can breed institutional stagnation — a serious problem in any field of endeavor but a veritable deal-breaker in higher education, which society rightly holds accountable for producing new knowledge and insights,” Skinner says in his just-released report, which examines the short-term and long-term ramifications of American higher education’s aging professoriate.

Skinner says a nationwide faculty bottleneck has been building since Dec. 31, 1993, the expiration date of a federal statutory exemption that had allowed U.S. colleges and universities to enforce mandatory-retirement guidelines years after most other employers had lost that prerogative. Since then, most tenured professors across the country have had the right to remain in the classroom or lab as long as they desire — and thousands have taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Skinner concluded that it’s impossible to predict when the still-growing Baby Boomer “bubble” might burst. Until then, however, the implications are profound for various campus constituencies, he said.

The attached white paper examines the bottleneck’s, genesis, scope, and impact. It also explores what colleges and universities are doing to encourage turnover — without violating federal employment law, without creating ill will, and without squandering the unparalleled knowledge, experience, and perspective that long-serving faculty members embody.

Attached also is a media advisory.

If you prefer not to download attachments, you may access the documents via these links: OK, Boomer ... or is it? The ramifications of academia’s aging professoriate and OK, Boomer-Advisory.

 

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