Education’s Dirty Secret: 75% of Professors Are Low-Wage Temp Workers
Since the recession, many large corporations have moved to hiring millions of temp workers to avoid paying liveable wages and benefits, creating a rapidly growing sector of the working poor. Many pundits argue that to get a better job, you need to get a better education. As it turns out, a new report from the Coalition of the Academic Workforce shows that three in four college professors work as adjuncts: part-time instructors with no job security or benefits who typically earn less than $1,000 per month for every class they teach.
According to the report, the number of part-time adjunct jobs has skyrocketed by 442 percent over the last 40 years. In the past, tenure-track professor positions made up the majority of college instructors, today that number is down to just 25 percent.
The average pay for an adjunct teaching a typical three credit class is $2,700 for the duration of the course (usually 12 to 15 weeks). About 79 percent of these adjuncts don’t get health benefits and 86 percent are not eligible for retirement benefits. The contracts that adjuncts work are always for limited terms with no guarantee of renewal.
Columbia professor Dorian Warren says that the report “punctures the myth that all we have to do to solve our economic problems is get as much education as possible. These are people with Ph.Ds. and they can not find full-time work.”
This also prevents professors from spending time doing research and working with students outside of the classroom. “If you’re teaching five courses and running from campus to campus… you don’t have time to do your research, to write, to read so you can stay up on the latest scholarship,” says Professor Warren, “It undermines the other key aspect of what we’re supposed to be up to in universities, which is the production of knowledge through research. How could one possibly be a productive researcher in this kind of context?”
Many adjunct professors have joined unions to try to gain at least some worker protection. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union that also includes food services workers and maintenance employees, now has 18,000 members teaching at a college or university. Even then, the average union-represented adjunct only earns about $642 per class more than non-unionized adjuncts.
(Image courtesy of Sterling College)