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How the “real world” (LinkedIn) sees Adjuncts

March 6, 2009

[Please take my adjunct pay rate survey before you go]

In my real life, I am knee-deep in corporate training (designing, developing, delivering adult learning for new computer systems). As such, I am involved in professional discussion groups, like LinedIn. One such group crossed topics with my snarky pseudonym, so I have to cross-post.

To protect the ignorant, no names will be used. One such unnamed person, whose profile indicates he should know better, posted the following reply in response to a question about the current state of adjuncts, colleges, and the fiscal crisis. He writes:

…Now more to your question: Since adjuncts (aka ‘contingency’) employees have no benefits, the cost to staff a course is probably 25% of staffing with a full time instructor. I have seen 3 credit stipends anywhere between $2200 and $3000. [he is correct here] The full time instructor, teaching 6 (3+3) such courses, earns (for the sake of argument) $60,000. I have heard that the cost of benefits may be as much as 50% of the salary, on top of the salary itself. (using these numbers, the cost of FT vs PT for 6, 3 credit courses is $90,000 vs $18,000) Part of the FTers load includes pursuit of a research agenda (ostensibly to obtain grants which help fund the institution and gain or maintain ‘status’), student advisement, and service to the institution, there are hidden benefits. None of these duties are handled by adjuncts. [Not always true…adjuncts are often asked to pick up duties usually associated with “full time”] Therefore, there is a decided cost savings, BUT there are also decreases to services provided. It will be the current students who suffer most. I view it as a real-life lesson in economics though, and having experienced this, perhaps we can hope that our current students will remember these lessons and use them later in life.

Frankly, the last couple of lines sound like old-man jibberish. The only thing our students will take away from the current structure is their impression of the individual instructor, contingent or tenured. Given the propensity of adjuncts to be missionaries in their position (willing to self-sacrifice for the cause), the impression on the students is, usually, positive.

The students impression of the institution, though, may tend toward the negative as advising, mentoring, etc. is reduced if not in quality at least in amount.

What old-man jibberish does not realize, though, is that contingent faculty often make up more than half of the faculty population (more at some, less at other schools), and that the sea-change has already occured.

Any thoughts?

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One Comment
  1. March 6, 2009 8:32 pm

    I don’t think most students know the difference — unless someone tells them. Eventually they figure out that some of their profs have more power than others — and that some of their profs don’t seem to be on campus much, but I don’t think the students realize the huge difference in rate of pay per class.

    I had several students complain that I wasn’t around enough — I taught one section T/Th and was on campus most of those days — but, since I wasn’t there when they came by on MW, I wasn’t available enough to them. They had no idea that I was teaching at the other 4-year in town MWF AND doing grad work 60 miles down the road.

    In terms of pay — one thing I love about the MN community college system is that the pay rate per class is the same, as long as the adjunct is teaching a total of 4 credits in the system. They also get health insurance at rates in proportion to their load. Thus, we expect them to do service in proprotion to their load as well —

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