Monday, April 29, 2013

The Plight of Adjunct Professors

Since I am interested in teaching online college level courses, I found this article to be of interest. To quote:
While hiring greater numbers of adjuncts might make economic sense for universities, it hasn’t gone without some serious, often warranted, criticism. That’s because adjuncts, as a temporary workforce, haven’t been treated especially well by the universities who employ them. While there are exceptions, most adjuncts are faced with pretty abysmal working conditions causing this once invisible campus group to become a serious point of contention among many worried about the state of higher education.

Though some might dismiss adjunct work as part-time and therefore less stressful than that done by full-time, tenured professors, that isn’t the reality for most adjuncts, at least not if they want to make a living wage. A survey by the Center for the Future of Higher Education found that 54% were teaching at multiple institutions, often because work at one school wasn’t enough to pay the bills. While most only teach at two schools, it’s not unheard of for adjuncts to take on work at three or even four schools within a single semester, leading to some serious hours commuting from campus to campus.

This commute can add not only additional time but also costs to each work week, and with one third of adjuncts making less than $2,987 per class, commuting costs can quickly put a strain on adjunct income, which has lagged behind inflation for almost two decades.

This poor pay, about $25,000 a year on average, has left many relying on public assistance to make ends meet. Since 2007, the number of Americans with a master’s degree or higher who use public assistance programs has doubled, and it’s no secret that many of these downtrodden by highly educated individuals work as adjuncts, barely eking out the $19,000 a year that puts them below the poverty line for an individual. Add to that a lack of health care and retirement benefits due to their part-time status and adjuncts are actually worse off than university staff that perform jobs that require nothing more than a high school education.

Pam Gilchrist and her husband both worked as adjuncts at several universities for more than a decade before moving on. “We jokingly called it ‘a paid hobby.’ I love to teach. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t make a living serving as an adjunct.” (Read entire article.)


The North Coast said...

I have always wondered how anyone could figure that part-time work was "less stressful" than full-time. I know what it's like to be underemployed, and also know a number of excellent people who are forced to scrape a living as adjunct professors.There is no way that working full time could begin to be as stressful as not having enough money to subsist on,or not knowing if you're even going to have any income at the end of the semester, especially when you have tens of thousands of dollars in college loans to pay back. The instability has to be having a very negative effect on these people mentally and emotionally, and on the quality of their teaching.

Being an adjunct is a totally miserable, unstable, scary existence. You might get 5 classes to teach, or 3, and at different schools- you never know. You cannot plan your finances, though planning is never so essential as when you have a limited income. Forget about buying a house or even renting a decent apartment- landlords understandably hate renting to people who don't have stable incomes.

It is very sad and reflective of skewed priorities that the same schools that have enough money to go on major building sprees- have you seen the way most colleges have been building lately- somehow cannot place more instructors on salaries that are at last regular, even if low.

elena maria vidal said...

NC, you are right on all points. It is so disappointing that educators are not valued in our country anymore.