More colleges are limiting adjuncts’ work hours to avoid Obamacare’s insurance mandates, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Allison G. Armentrout, an adjunct instructor at Stark State College, an Ohio community college, earns $4,600 to teach two English composition courses. Though she’s not paid by the hour, she tracks her work hours to show she’s not working 30 hours a week.
On a recent week, she spent three hours preparing for her lectures, close to six hours in the classroom, and 16 more grading assignments for a grand total of about 25 hours. So she can breathe a sigh of relief because she won’t lose her job: She came in under the college’s new 29-hour-a-week wire designed to keep her ineligible for health-care coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Twice this semester, she’s undercounted her work hours to stay under the limit, says Armentrout.
Colleges in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have told adjuncts to keep their hours down, reports the Chronicle.
The Community College of Allegheny County reduced the workload limit for its adjuncts from 12 to 10 credits per semester. affecting about 400 part-time employees. Providing health benefits would cost at least $6 million, which would be “simply unaffordable,” said David Hoovler, executive assistant to the president. However, the college gave all its part-time employees a small raise and is trying to form a group health plan to offer part-timers discounted insurance rates.
Colleges must provide health benefits to adjuncts who work 30+ hours per week under Obamacare, which starts in 2014. Work hours include prep time, not just classroom teaching, the Internal Revenue Service advises.
. . . colleges must “use a reasonable method for crediting hours of service,” the IRS document says. In the case of an adjunct faculty member, the document adds, it would not be a reasonable method of calculating an instructor’s work hours for colleges to take into account “only classroom or instruction time and not other hours that are necessary to perform the employee’s duties, such as class-preparation time.”
Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national advocacy group for adjuncts, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that “the IRS is on the right track.”
Average pay for adjuncts at colleges and universitiesis $2,987 for a three-credit course, reports The Adjunct Project, which is crowdsourcing information on salaries and working conditions. Community colleges pay much less than most four-year universities, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Adjuncts at 16 colleges reported earning less than $1,000.”
Joshua A. Boldt, a writing instructor in Georgia, is working with The Chronicle on a web site that sorts data by department, college, and region of the country.
At top research universities, adjuncts average $4,750 per three-credit course. Adjuncts at rural, medium-sized, two-year institutions, where pay is the lowest, average $1,808 per three-credit course.
In California, where faculty at two- and four-year public institutions are unionized, the average pay is $3,888 per course, according to data reported to the Adjunct Project as of last month. In Texas, by contrast, a state where unions are rare, the reported pay is lower: $2,805 per course.
Salaries are lower in the humanities: Adjuncts who teach English reported earning an average of $2,727 per course. At Houston Community College, adjuncts average $1,200 to $2,200 for a three-credit English course. The national average for adjuncts who teach engineering is $4,789 per course.
Only 22 percent of adjuncts reported that they were union members. Seventy percent don’t serve on governance committees.
“We’re not compensated when we do that,” Peter Feiden, an adjunct economics professor at Montgomery College, in Maryland, says of part-time faculty members there. He earns about $3,000 per course at Montgomery and about $6,000 per course at Catholic University of America, where he is also an adjunct.
Few adjuncts qualify for health insurance, retirement or other benefits.
About half of all faculty members — 70 percent at community colleges — are part-time adjuncts, estimates a 2010 survey by the American Federation of Teachers. Eighty percent of community college faculty teach part-time, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.
Universities keep turning out English PhDs even though there are fewer full-time jobs, writes Mark Bauerlein. That makes it easy to find people to teach freshman composition for low pay and no benefits.
Community colleges were supposes to be “democracy’s college,” writes Keith Kroll, an English professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Michigan. That “grand experiment” is coming to an end, Kroll writes. From President Obama on down, community colleges are seen as job training centers providing workers for local employers, not as places where students begin higher education.
Within the next 20 years, 80 percent of classes will be taught online, he predicts. Ninety percent of faculty will be part-timers who may never meet their students or each other.
In the community college of the future each department will have one full-time “faculty manager,” whose responsibilities will include distributing prepackaged, business-driven curricula and course syllabi; selecting the common textbook from which all faculty members will “teach”; scheduling and assigning classes . . . and managing the online grading program that all faculty will use to assess student performance. There will no longer be in-person department meetings, faculty representation on college committees, shared governance, or professional development . . . (faculty) will no longer be teachers, but technicians with no say in what they teach and how they teach.
English instructors will teach writing solely to give students the practical skills required by employers, he writes. Literature — indeed all the liberal arts — will be eliminated on grounds they have “no economic value.”
The revised mission statement of the Association of American Colleges and Universities is “to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.” I’m not sure what “inclusive excellence’ means.
To avoid paying for health insurance, a Pittsburgh community college will cut the work hours of 400 adjunct instructors and support staff by Dec. 31, reports Breitbart. Under Obamacare, employers have to provide insurance for employees working 30 or more hours a week. Community College of Allegheny County will cut part-timers to 25 hours a week. Adjuncts will be limited to teaching 10 credit hours a semester, down from 12, for $730 per credit hour. In all, the college will save $6 million.
The college can’t afford to fund benefits, said CCAC spokesperson David Hoovler. “Several years of cuts or largely flat funding from our government supporters have led to significant cost reductions by CCAC, leaving little room to trim the college’s budget further.”
“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said adjunct biology professor Adam Davis.
“We all know we are expendable and there are plenty of people out there in this economy who would be willing to have our jobs,” said Davis.
CCAC’s faculty union doesn’t include adjuncts, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Adjunct English professor Clint Benjamin, who has been teaching at the college for six years, pays out-of-pocket for catastrophic health care coverage only and had vague hopes of improved insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Not only is he now ineligible for such help, but the course load reduction will translate to up to $600 less in pay each month.
But Benjamin still will be working full-time. Between the college and nearby Duquesne University, he currently teaches seven courses per semester. He estimated he works up to 70 hours per week, but doesn’t qualify for health insurance at either institution.
“There’s frustration and anger and sadness and resentment, you know, but you don’t have a voice,” Benjamin said.
Developmental education is a cash cow for colleges, some people believe. Others see it as a money pit. It’s complicated, writes Community College Dean.
Developmental courses tend to be more expensive in that they run smaller, so we have fewer tuitions to amortize the cost of the instructor. But they also tend to be staffed with adjuncts, who make less money. . . . They have lower pass rates than credit-bearing classes, so there’s an attrition loss. Developmental students also make considerable use of the tutoring center — especially in math — which is a cost center in its own right. That said, though, developmental classes don’t need chemistry labs or a lot of specialized equipment, which many credit-bearing classes do.
Low-enrollment upper-level classes that require specialized spaces, such as music, studio art, nursing or lab science, lose the most money, the dean writes, but it’s important to remember that remedial and college-level classes are run at a loss. Community colleges use public funding to keep tuition low, encouraging more people to pursue higher education. An educated citizenry and workforce is considered a public good.
If developmental courses generate success, enabling students to go to higher-level coursework, then they make senese as “loss leaders,” the dean writes. “If they don’t, then I see a valid educational case for junking them, or at least re-envisioning them in a pretty drastic way.”
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.
California community colleges will see a wave of faculty retirements in the next five to 10 years, predicts a study presented at AERA. That could allow adjuncts to move up to much better paid full-time jobs, notes Inside Higher Ed. Or colleges could save money by replacing retirees with part-time adjuncts.
Adjuncts may be excellent teachers with relevant, real-world experience, writes Eliana Osborn, a part-time adjunct herself.
My friend Jim is a federal attorney by day, adjunct professor in the paralegal department by night. His students are tremendously lucky to have him. He brings real-life experience about what their on-the-job demands will be, is up-to-date on happenings in the legal system, and knows what he wants from a paralegal he hires.
Hard-working adjuncts “handle the toughest classes,” Osborn writes. Being exploitable is not their only characteristic.
Students should “occupy” colleges that ignore their needs, writes Sara Goldrick-Rab on Education Optimists. Students whose parents aren’t college-educated are “stunned by the high and rising costs of attendance, and the lack of grant aid available to them,” she writes.
These are the students willing to work long hours to make ends meet, but continually surprised that the faculty and administrators don’t respond in turn to accommodate their needs with flexible scheduling, remote advising, and timetables for timely degree completion that don’t require full-time enrollment. These are the students who attend the vast majority of our public colleges and universities, and our community colleges, and these are the students at the heart of Occupy Colleges.
Colleges and universities have become less hospitable to “non-traditional” students, who make up at least half of undergraduates, Goldrick-Rab writes.
The growth of the student services industry has segregated the job of meeting students’ needs to administrators, letting faculty off the hook. The shift to part-time, contingent labor has lessened the ability of professors to spend the kind of time required to really get to know and address their students’ needs–thus creating a stronger rationale for relying on administrators.
As state support declines, public colleges and universities are moving to the high tuition/high aid model, she writes. But this discourages potential students who take sticker prices as real. And aid rarely rises to match tuition.
Many non-traditional students enroll in community colleges. They rarely face high sticker prices or heavy debt. But they also don’t experience “flexible scheduling, remote advising and timetables for timely degree completion that don’t require full-time enrollment.” I doubt if many are participating in an “Occupy College” protest. They don’t have the time.
An award-winning study of nine adult students who persisted at a Western community college finds that connecting with an instructor – not with campus activities — made the difference, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Rosemary Capps followed older students who started in remedial reading, a high-risk group, for her 2010 University of Utah dissertation.
Now an academic developer at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of California at Davis, Capps said colleges need to reach adult students ”in their classrooms.” Many don’t have time to visit an advising center.
. . . knowing students personally and validating them can make a huge difference. I also believe strongly in faculty advising. . . . Sometimes adult students don’t have time to go to an advising center—they have to rush out of class to get to some other obligation. But they might take three minutes at the end of class to talk to a faculty member they trust. “Do you have any ideas about what classes I should take next?” So I think it’s important for faculty to get familiar with general-education requirements and the major requirements in their fields, because students who feel comfortable with them are going to come to them first with those questions.
Developmental education instructors often are adjuncts, who may be rushing from one college to another to make a living, Capps says.
If (adjunct) instructors are going to fill that faculty-advising role, they need more support, they need more time, they need more pay, and they need more benefits. Otherwise, they really can’t; they’re already stretched very thin.
Pushing struggling students into college-level classes right away is a mistake, Capps argues. Students with weak basic skills need ”a small class with a caring teacher before they get into the harder content and higher expectations of credit courses.”