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.
To conform with City University of New York’s Pathways program, which is designed to help community college students transfer credits, English professors at Queensborough Community College were told to cut an hour from four-hour composition courses. They refused. In response, a college vice president, Karen Steele, sent the department a memo threatening to cancel the composition courses and tell students to take composition at other CUNY campuses. The enrollment drop would force the college to cancel job searches for full-time faculty, send layoff notices to adjuncts and possibly lay off full-time professors, Steele wrote.
Faculty are furious, reports Inside Higher Ed. After the memo was attacked on several blogs — The Danger of Ignoring Shared Governance, and CUNY Declares War on Rebel English Department were two headlines — the college president told faculty there’s no retaliation plan: “The potential consequences as described in Vice President Steele’s email illustrate the worst case scenario — one we are prepared to work mightily to avoid,” wrote Diane Call.
Some faculty leaders believe Pathways “takes too much power away from individual campuses and departments, and that easing transfer could come at the expense of academic rigor,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Those fears now have been inflamed.
As a new adjunct teaching developmental writing, Katherine Gekker encountered community college students from many countries and cultures. “Helen” wrote poorly in class, but turned in a polished assignment. She admitted a friend had “helped” her write the paper but saw nothing wrong with that.
“When someone else does the work for you, no learning took place,” I said.
She seemed baffled, questioning what I meant by “no learning took place.”
It was my turn to be baffled by a student who did not seem to understand the basic point of college.
Helen turned in another paper on a new topic. All was well, for awhile.
But during the Columbus Day weekend, Helen e-mailed me to say she needed to get an A in this course because she would be applying to 11 colleges, including Ivy League institutions. All the students feel I am too strict, she said. Since I am a new teacher, perhaps I do not understand that bad ratings on RateMyProfessor.com will mean that other students will not sign up for my courses in the future, and then I will have no work. Just to be sure I got her point, she embedded a link to RateMyProfessor.com in her e-mail.
Gekker forwarded the e-mail to the assistant dean, who wrote an e-mail to Helen telling her that if she continued to make threats, she’d be reported to the student-conduct officer.
Helen began to make appointments with me to review her papers. Her writing began to improve, and she brought me a cookie from her native country as a gift. I learned through her journal entries that she was under intense pressure, and that poor grades might result in her losing her student visa.
With five weeks to go, when it was time for students to work on a research paper, Helen stopped attending class. She earned an F.
Midway through the next semester, Gekker ran into Helen, who said she was retaking the class. “I learned that I was expecting too much of myself,” she said.
Community college students usually read nonfiction in first-year English courses. Freakonomics and Fast Food Nation are standards. Katherine Boutry taught Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours to her composition students at West Los Angeles Community College, reports Inside Higher Ed in Unafraid of Virginia Woolf. Most rose to the challenge of reading complex literature, said Boutry in a panel on teaching English to community college students at the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting.
At the beginning, some students viewed the course “as a death march,” Boutry said. And as they worked, line by line, through Mrs. Dalloway, the most common response once students understood what was going on was, “Why didn’t she just say that?” The indirection mystified students.But by the time the students got to The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s novel that focuses both on the writing and reading of Mrs. Dalloway, the students saw the work as “an inside joke that they could understand,” something they had never before experienced in literature.
Students who read literature were no better or worse at writing than students who read nonfiction, Boutry said.
In course evaluations, most students said they’d changed their mind about reading literature. Three students got tattoos that read “fear no more,” a phrase from the novel.
Other English professors talked about fears that the “completion agenda” will push them to lower standards to get more students to a degree.
Community college instructors are discouraged from “slow reading” literature with their students, said Carol Bork, of New Jersey’s Mercer County Community College. While few students will go on to study advanced literature, all can benefit from the “critical thinking” skills that textual analysis develops, she said.
Steven Canaday teaches at Anne Arundel Community College, in Maryland, which recently announced a commitment to double by 2020 the number of degrees and certificates it awards. All students seeking an associate degree must pass first-year composition; most certificates require students to pass out of remedial writing, at a minimum.
. . . as community colleges increasingly rely on “an army of part-timers” to teach, limiting the number of full-time faculty and academic advisers, Canaday said he doesn’t see how his department can magically get more people passing — particularly if enrollment continues to increase without matching increases in budgets and staffing.
Composition is considered a “bottleneck” course and the department is under pressure to drop the requirement of a research paper in order to boost pass rates.