Contingent Users in Education: the New Normal


You may be working alongside one of them and not even realize it: a substitute teacher, an adjunct professor, or a special education contractor. They’re all contingent workers - employees hired for a time period of one year or less with a specific end date; they could be full-time or part-time. Over the past decade, a trend has emerged in academia of these contingent workers being hired, and we’ve seen it accelerate at an increasingly high rate over the past few years.

In January 2014, the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and Workforce created a study called "The Just-In-Time Professor." That report stated that 50% of university workers are now adjunct/non-tenured faculty, up from only 20% in 1970. In 1975, 45.1% of college and university teachers were full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty. In 2009, that percentage dropped to 24.4%. This isn’t a case of overall higher education employment growing. It’s a switch in employment type as education institutions realize it’s more affordable to hire contingent workers than full-time salaried employees. And this trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Contingent workers in education are the new normal.

Protect Your Organization from the Threats Associated with Contingent Workers »

But as an IT professional, why is this increase in contingent workers relevant for you?

In most situations, IT owns the creation and granting of access to users. There’s no set policy or uniform authoritative force to determine what access a user needs, but guidance is typically given by the person or department who hired that user. If a 4th grade teacher is hired, the school principal may tell you in IT the access that person needs. Or if an accountant is hired at a community college, the controller or head of finance may provide that guidance. That same guidance is usually given when a contingent worker is hired, but where things can get messy is when a school’s relationship with a contingent worker ends.

When a full-time salaried employee leaves their job, there are usually protocols in place so that you in IT are made aware and can change access controls accordingly. However, when a contingent worker leaves, schools seem to be lacking the processes and due diligence to inform IT, so you’re left with orphaned accounts to which someone no longer employed by the school may still have access.

This situation can make contingent workers a significant pain point for IT, especially when it comes to security. They can pose a significant threat, particularly if they have access to sensitive data or privileged access to technology systems. With this classification of worker only expected to increase this year and into the future, you in IT need to determine more effective ways to manage these workers, so that you’re adequately protecting your school, the worker, and yourself.

The best way to mitigate the risks posed by contingent workers is to equip yourself with the proper IAM tools. When you have a large number of contingent workers within your school system, you should have an IAM solution with out-of-the-box functionality and workflows designed specifically for managing those workers. It shouldn’t require you to go into Active Directory and it should also have time-based certification expiration to make de-provisioning short-term contingent workers an easier process. Your solution should also automate the provisioning and de-provisioning of user accounts, harness SSO, and utilize the full capabilities of multi-factor authentication. 

Contingent workers aren't going anywhere. They're a part of the workforce that's here to stay. Prepare yourself and your organization so you can experience all the benefits of contingent workers and minimize the risks.

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