Poorly paid adjuncts are using food stamps, Medicaid and welfare to pay the bills, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
For example, Melissa Bruninga-Matteau, who earned a Ph.D. in medieval history, teaches two humanities courses at Yavapai College, an Arizona community college. Her take-home pay is $900 a month with no benefits. She pays $750 a month in rent and $40 a week in gas to commute to campus. A single mother, she relies on food stamps and Medicaid.
She’s not alone.
Some are struggling to pay back student loans and cover basic living expenses as they submit scores of applications for a limited pool of full-time academic positions. Others are trying to raise families or pay for their children’s college expenses on the low and fluctuating pay they receive as professors off the tenure track, a group that now makes up 70 percent of faculties. Many bounce on and off unemployment or welfare during semester breaks. And some adjuncts have found themselves trying to make ends meet by waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students.
While graduate-degree holders are much less likely to use public aid than less-educated Americans, the percentage “who receive food stamps or some other aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010,” the Chronicle reports. Adjuncts, who typically work part-time with no job security or benefits, are especially vulnerable.
Some adjuncts make less money than custodians and campus support staff who may not have college degrees. An adjunct’s salary can range from $600 to $10,000 per course, according to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourced database about adjuncts’ salaries and working conditions. The national average earnings of adjunct instructors are just under $2,500 per course, according to the American Association of University Professors.
Years ago, I told the chancellor of the local community college district that my sister was teaching remedial English as a part-time adjunct at two community colleges. “Closest thing to slave labor we’ve got in this country!” he said.
Underpaid instructors can bypass colleges and sell their courses direct to online students through services such as Udemy, writes Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey.