Adjunct faculty consider unionization

Andrew Nelson earns $22,000 a year — with no benefits — teaching three courses per semester at East Central College near St. Louis and Lindenwood University, reports AP. He drives as much as 100 miles a day and works 50 hours a week during the nine-month school year.

Tired of low wages and no job security, adjunct faculty in the St. Louis area are exploring unionization, reports AP.

Colleges and universities are relying more heavily on poorly paid adjuncts.

 Nelson gets paid about $2,500 a semester for every three-credit course he teaches. So he picks up as many courses as he can, splitting his time between two universities to make ends meet.

But, he said, it’s not just about money.

“The most important thing is that we have no input into the departments we work in. We have no say on textbooks, either,” he said. “So other people determine what we are going to teach and how we are going to teach it.”

Nelson also said adjuncts miss out on holding office hours to better connect with students, plus paid faculty development days which help instructors become better at their jobs.

The Service Employees International Union is organizing at several colleges and universities, including  St. Louis Community College.

Adjuncts are talking union at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, New York.  Seventy percent of the college’s 200 adjunct faculty want to organize, said Greg Sevik, who read a prepared statement at the board of trustees meeting.

“The college and its lawyers have decided to delay, arguing that, instead, we should join the existing union for full-time faculty members,” he said.

. . . full-time and adjunct professors “by no means work under the same conditions; unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts have no health benefits, few opportunities for professional advancement, no required office hours or member on college committees, and little assurance that they will have a job after the end of each semester.”

“I have no problem, this board has no problem, with an adjunct union,” responded Gregory DeCinque, the college’s interim president.

Relentless mentoring keeps students ‘On Point’

On Point for College is helping New Yorkers get into college, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. A personal touch and “relentless” mentoring has helped thousands of first-generation students.

It all started, Ginny Donohue says, when a friend of her daughter sought advice on how to get into college.

He was chronically homeless, living from couch to couch. She pointed him in the right direction and helped him through the bureaucratic hoops to get into Cayuga Community College.

Then she helped a few more people, and a few more after that, and her reputation began to grow.

“People started stopping me in the grocery store to say, ‘Are you the lady that got Jack in?’ ” she said.

Eventually, Donahue quit her finance job and started the nonprofit, which has expanded from Syracuse to Utica and now New York City.

Program employees and volunteers take On Point’s clients on college visits, help them with their applications and financial aid forms and keep in close contact with them throughout their college careers, transporting them back and forth and visiting frequently to make sure they’re able to stay on track.

Eighty-four percent of On Point clients who went to two-year colleges went on to earn bachelor’s degrees or were in the process of doing so, a Syracuse University study found.  Those who began in four-year colleges all completed their degrees within 4½ years.

On Point workers visit students twice a semester at four-year schools, every month at two-year schools, every week at Mohawk Valley Community College and New York City community colleges, and twice a week at Onondaga Community College.

Vets sign up for college, but how many graduate?

In three years, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has helped 860,000 vets go to school. But little is known about how veterans’ graduation or employment rates, reports NPR.

Most student veterans choose community colleges or for-profit colleges. At Cayuga Community College, a small school in rural, upstate New York, the number of vets went up by 400 percent after the new bill went into effect in 2009, says Sarah Yaw.

Many were the first in their families to go to college. She formed a consortium with other educators in the upstate area to provide special counseling for the new students.

There are no national statistics on veterans’ graduation rates, and that lack of data recently led to a slight panic among supporters.

Some press accounts cited information that said only 3 percent of vets were getting degrees. Veterans’ advocates quickly debunked that number, but it just pointed to a need for data.

Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, is working on a database to track nearly 1 million new student veterans, who’ve received $24 billion and counting in aid. The Department of Veterans Affairs also plans to track success rates.

However, education statistics that track “first-time, full-time students” leave out many veterans and other nontraditional students.