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.
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.
Jill Biden’s $82,o00 a year salary as a community college professor — revealed by a look at her husband’s tax returns — has amazed adjuncts, who thought she was one of their own, reports Inside Higher Ed. Though Biden started as an adjunct, she’s now an associate professor teaching three developmental English classes at Northern Virginia Community College. The college says she works full-time, keeps office hours and attends faculty meetings. With 15 years experience teaching at Delaware Technical Community College, she earns an above-average salary.
Jack Longmate, a member of the New Faculty Majority and an adjunct faculty member who teaches at Olympic College, said he wished Biden would use her visibility to highlight the “plight of adjuncts.”
. . . “there is a dysfunctional two-tiered system in place in our colleges and it impacts the quality of instruction. I wish she brought attention to that. ”
Despite her full-time teaching job, Biden has been visiting community colleges with U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to promote partnerships between industries and community colleges. Yesterday, she spoke at Reading Area Community College in Pennsylvania with Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.
In January, Vice President Joe Biden raised academic hackles by blaming rising college costs of faculty pay. “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he said in Pennsylvania. “They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience: His wife pay nearly doubled when she went from teaching two courses per semester as an adjunct to three as an assistant professor.
College professors aren’t working very hard at community colleges and universities that focus on teaching rather than research, argues David C. Levy in a Washington Post commentary. Now president of the education group at Cambridge Information Group, Levy is a former university chancellor.
For example, Maryland’s Montgomery College (an excellent two-year community college) reports its average full professor’s salary as $88,000, based on a workload of 15 hours of teaching for 30 weeks. Faculty members are also expected to keep office hours for three hours a week. The faculty handbook states: “Teaching and closely related activities are the primary responsibilities of instructional faculty.” While the handbook suggests other responsibilities such as curriculum development, service on committees and community outreach, notably absent from this list are research and scholarship.
Faculty members teaching 12 to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks spend 360 to 450 hours per year in the classroom and perhaps an equal amount of time preparing for class and grading papers, Levy writes. That puts their workload at 36 to 45 percent of the hours non-academic professionals.
If the higher education community were to adjust its schedules and semester structure so that teaching faculty clocked a 40-hour week (roughly 20 hours of class time and equal time spent on grading, preparation and related duties) for 11 months, the enhanced efficiency could be the equivalent of a dramatic budget increase. Many colleges would not need tuition raises or adjustments to public budget priorities in the near future.
“Montgomery College’s dedicated faculty members . . . mentor, counsel, advise and more,” responds DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College, in a letter to the editor. “They spend untold hours preparing lessons, addressing the different learning styles of students, developing and measuring learning outcomes, and updating and revising curricula to ensure a meaningful learning experience. … Judging them merely on the number of hours they spend in the classroom is like judging surgeons on the number of hours they’re in the operating room or judging attorneys on the time they spend in the courtroom.”
Professors spend three hours preparing for one hour in the classroom, plus extra hours advising students and serving on committees, claims Marybeth Gasman, a professor at a research university.
Is this the norm for community college professors?
* the degrees are screamingly cheap ($5,000 or so on average)
* associate’s degrees offer immediate, huge benefits over a high school education
* credit sometimes transfers to 4 year institutions
Academically prepared students who can afford the opportunity cost of not working for four years probably should get a bachelor’s degree in a decent-paying field, the article advises.
Given how cheap degrees and loans are, there is no reason to forgo the difference in wages between a BA in Computer Engineering ($100,000 or more) and an AA in Physical Therapy ($33,000) just to save on the cost of the degree.
But don’t borrow $97,000 for a degree in gender and religious studies and expect to make enough to pay back student loans and have money left over for two or three meals a day.
Here’s more on the best-paying careers with an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and up.