The Haves and The Have-Nots of Academia

Last week, I tweeted a link to a Slate article entitled, "Thesis Hatement: Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a professor." A friend responded, "is it really as bad as that?" 

Let's just talk about salary disparities for the moment. An article in today's Times has some nice numbers. 

For the academic elite — tenured professors at private research universities — average pay this year is $167,118, while at public research universities such professors earn $123,393, according to the annual report by the American Association of University Professors.

But public college professors aren't making that. 

Average pay for assistant professors at private colleges that award only bachelor’s degrees is $62,763, while public colleges paid $58,591.

And what about the non-tenured faculty?

… this year’s report includes data from a Coalition on the Academic Workforce survey of more than 10,000 part-time faculty members, finding that their median pay per course in 2010 was $2,700.

$2,700 per class. If you teach seven classes per year, that's $18,900. 

The article ended with an interview with Terry Hartle, the senior vice president of the American Council on Education. The move towards shifting the teaching load to the migrant laborers of academia didn't really bother him. That's was just part of the trend. He was most concerned about the disparity between tenured faculty at public colleges and private and research colleges. Because these organizations and unions only care about tenured faculty. 

There's been lots of talk about MOOCs and online college education in the past year. I contributed to the discussion pretty early on, and as a result, I get press releases from ed-tech companies nearly every day now. Awesome. 

But that's not the real big story in academia right now. The story is that a whole lot of house elves are doing the teaching work, and some day, they are going to get really pissed off. 

55 thoughts on “The Haves and The Have-Nots of Academia

  1. Tenured professors at private research universities are a pretty small pool, aren’t they?
    I think the comparisons need to be qualified by pointing out which ones may be of the same individuals, just at different points in their careers. For instance, my husband’s first tenure track job in DC at a private research university started 12 years ago and his first salary was rather below the one quoted here for his category (inflation, blah, blah, blah). I can’t quite remember what it was ($47k?), but I do recall vividly that once you subtracted out taxes, health insurance and our rent, that left a whole whopping $800 for the month for husband, baby and me to eat, buy clothes, buy metro passes, pay utilities and somehow buy the occasional plane ticket to see grandmas and grandpas. Pretty grim. Fast forward 12 years, and he’s a tenured full professor with extra administrative responsibilities (which he gets a salary bump for), a steady stream of small royalty checks coming in (academic and hobby software), invitations to do stuff with honorariums attached, and so forth. Is it pretty darn sweet? Yes it is.

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  2. I think the comparisons need to be qualified by pointing out which ones may be of the same individuals, just at different points in their careers.
    Certainly between different types of research universities, but I don’t think may people are jumping between colleges that only award bachelor’s degrees and any kind of research university unless it’s within a very few years after their PhD comes.
    Related, I was wondering about the figure for colleges that only award bachelor’s degrees. As near as I can figure, by about 1990 everybody starting offering graduate programs in at least one or two things. I think that may be too far down the scale for a proper comparison.

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  3. “As near as I can figure, by about 1990 everybody starting offering graduate programs in at least one or two things. I think that may be too far down the scale for a proper comparison.”
    Very true.

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  4. Hey– not all of us have it great. I am a tenured professor at a private college and I make $48,000. No raises at all since 2008. Not every private college is elite.

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  5. I am very happy that you and your family are enjoying a higher standard of living, Amy P. But your entire comment was bullshit and part of the dulusional thinking that enables tenured faculty to ignore the explotation of untenured faculty and the extreme differences in pay within academia.
    Most people who are on low paying tracks at public colleges never, ever leave those public colleges. In part because they are teaching too many damn classes and can’t write enough articles. That low paying salary is the same low paying salary throughout their career.
    Don’t even get me going about all the adjuncts who are life-long adjuncts. I had some momentary mental illness last week and thought I would adjunct a class at the local community college until I found out that it didn’t work out to minimum wage. How is that legal?

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  6. Most people who are on low paying tracks at public colleges never, ever leave those public colleges.
    The adjunct part is new, but the two-track system is not. My uncle warned me about it twenty years ago when I first started graduate school. He didn’t mention it was a new thing.

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  7. It’s a very leaky pipeline that works to the advantage of administrators who can staff sections at will. Retirements? Maybe more adjunct sections. New program? Cobbled together with existing full-timers and more adjunct sections. Sure, we pay our adjuncts better than at most places (they also get offices and TA support here) but not enough to make a living. Gone are the days when our administration let us put together a 9-month or 12-month full-time contract position to cover shortfalls. Gone with the wind!
    We worked for years to try and get some new full-time lines in our department. Now we’re five down, one new hire signed and one search still in progress. We don’t have enough people to send anyone to faculty senate this year and we’re at risk of losing our graduate program accreditation in one field thanks to reduced personnel numbers.
    Administrations are rewarded for keeping the costs down and, at a university or college, the easiest way to keep costs down is to shed permanent personnel costs. Retire without rehire, shift teaching online to the cheapest cost structure (our distance ed contracts pay per student) and as long as no one slaps your hand, you’re good.
    I’m lucky to be full-time at a more than decent pay range. I thank my union for that but if I could be doing this with more colleagues, I’d be happier. Sadly, even if I and every colleague offered to slash our salaries in half, the administration would still steer clear of meaningful hiring commitments.

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  8. I still don’t quite understand what your argument is, Laura, after all these posts. Adjuncts are underpaid. Yes, I think we mostly all agree with this claim.
    Adjuncts are underpaid because universities are evil?
    Adjuncts are underpaid because no one cares about them?
    Adjuncts are underpaid because no one appreciates their work?
    Adjuncts are paid because universities are too cheap to fully staff themselves with full-timers?
    Adjuncts are underpaid because the government isn’t doing anything to protect them?
    I also can’t figure out what your argument is about starting faculty at private vs public colleges. Since this whole discussion reminds me of Hollyweird, I just went poking around some stats on salaries there. PAs generally make about $100-200 a day but often work long hours in really difficult conditions. Camera operators make about $60K a year in California. They make closer to $70K a year in Massachusetts. You try living in the LA area on $60K a year.
    I’m just not sure what you’re saying? Should we all be paid the same salary, everywhere? Should all professors be paid the same salary, everywhere? Are you making an argument about standardizing incomes? Or something else?
    I really honestly do not understand. I guess I want a policy proposal of some sort.

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  9. Media is going that way too. So is IT if you look at global outsourcing. It is incredibly clicheed to say but these are really tough times in terms of the one-good-job-to-feed-a-whole-family.

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  10. Laura, I find it ironic that you are so shocked/appalled that teaching labor (which is what adjuncting is) is being underpaid or undervalued, when you have been so dismissive of teaching labor in the K-12 field in the past. Adjuncts are hired to teach courses, and teaching has been battling for decades to get people to recognize how much of teaching happens outside the classroom. Many adjuncts do service and conduct research as well (I know, I was one of them for years), but the kind you are talking about here, the kind getting paid $2700 per course, are hired to be teachers, not research professors.

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  11. $2,700 per course is far, far below the rate of teaching labor for elementary schools. Nuns teaching in Catholic schools after having taken vows of poverty got paid more.

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  12. “But your entire comment was bullshit and part of the dulusional thinking that enables tenured faculty to ignore the explotation of untenured faculty and the extreme differences in pay within academia.”
    I don’t see how that’s BS–without going into too many identifying details, it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. It is very unlikely to get a tenure track job, but the odds of succeeding at getting tenure once on that track are not bad at all. I’ve known people not to get tenure, but those were people with no live research program at all. There is weirdness in the Ivy League with regard to hiring assistant professors who have no hope of getting tenure at that institution, but lower down the food chain, tenure track job offers are made in good faith, to people who have a good chance of getting tenure. The hiring process is so painful and time-consuming that it doesn’t make sense to put everybody through that misery unnecessarily.
    Also, aren’t armies of adjuncts more common in public than in private colleges? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about high private college salaries and the adjunct problem in the same breath–those things are generally not happening under the same roof.

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  13. Teachers start at $50,000 around here. That’s with a BA right out of college. Tenured faculty at the local community college make way into the six figures. An adjunct with a PhD who teaches the equivilent of 50 hours a week (assuming responsible prep work and paper grading) will make $18,000.
    This is my last comment on the matter. If you can’t see how insane that is, then a rational discussion is impossible.

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  14. The bifurcation between the haves and the have nots is happening in every field. JennG mentions media and IT; it’s also true about law (and not just w/ the associate/partner difference, but also the difference in different employment).
    And, at universities, it’s not just true about adjuncts/other teaching faculty, but also about researchers and postdocs.
    Structures everywhere are getting more pyramidal.

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  15. I think the big story is what bj says, this is happening throughout the country in various industries. What is the solution? I wish it was unions, but I don’t think that is how it will play out.

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  16. I think the big story is what bj says, this is happening throughout the country in various industries. What is the solution? I wish it was unions, but I don’t think that is how it will play out.

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  17. I think the big story is what bj says, this is happening throughout the country in various industries. What is the solution? I wish it was unions, but I don’t think that is how it will play out.

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  18. Yes, totally agree that this trend is bigger than academia. Getting a glimpse of it as I transition to journalism. My friends in publishing have their own horror stories.

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  19. Yes, totally agree that this trend is bigger than academia. Getting a glimpse of it as I transition to journalism. My friends in publishing have their own horror stories.

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  20. The bifurcation is happening in law, too. I knew a surprising number of ex-journalists in law school who were trying to escape that train wreck.
    (I disagree that tenure is some kind of rational system once you actually get the job, and also that the use of adjuncts at public universities is somehow totally divorced from what’s happening at private research institutions. As for why adjuncts are underpaid, it’s because the entire system of higher education in this country is screwed up and filled with perverse incentives.)

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  21. AmyP, plenty of people don’t get tenure, and it isn’t all about having no research activity. Turns out when one doesn’t get tenure (as I just didn’t), stories come out of the woodwork. Lots of stories. I basically missed tenure by one article, that was accepted 6 weeks after the vote. So you know, tenure denial does happen to good people, for bs reasons, and the institution doesn’t care because with the overpopulation of PhDs they can just replace one TT person with another, much like they replace TT positions with adjunct ones.

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  22. “So you know, tenure denial does happen to good people, for bs reasons, and the institution doesn’t care because with the overpopulation of PhDs they can just replace one TT person with another, much like they replace TT positions with adjunct ones.”
    I know one guy who was unfairly denied tenure (one of the grounds for denial used was that he’d used his own book in his course–seriously). However, he’s a feisty guy, he did an appeal, got tenure, and lived to dance on the (academic) graves of his enemies.

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  23. I think part of the invisibility is that elite research institutions aren’t the ones paying their adjuncts $2700 per course. Adjuncts of course always have it worse off, and need better conditions even at elite places, but I imagine it’s rare to have, in one institution, professors making 200K and adjuncts making 18K. I am at an elite research university and I imagine most senior full profs are making at least 200K. (Of course, they’re *also* the most famous people in their fields, the types who get invited to consult around the world, win MacArthur genius awards, hold endowed chairs, and get Nobel-type prizes from the King of Sweden. To reach that level, they have to bring in 100s of thousands, if not millions, in outside funding, get competitive job offers from other schools and threaten to leave, and in other ways “prove their worth” to the university. The starting salary for a assistant professor is about 50-55K, and for an associate profesor is maybe around 70-80K. As much as I dislike that way professors have to relentlessly promote themselves, I am not sure why being world-famous for your research doesn’t entitle you to the same salary as a mid-level hedge fund manager.) But anyways, I digress.
    But down from TT, we have a 4-year post-doc position which pays 60-70K a year plus benefits, and permanent lectureship positions which also pay around 70K w/benefits and TA support. The only “true” adjuncts are grad students, who make 5K per 10 week class, plus health insurance. Often it’s on top of a fellowship stipend, but once the stipend runs out (most people get non-teaching related funding for 5-8 years), teaching 2 classes per quarter (half load) can get 30K/year plus health insurance. Our university is considered somewhat stingy towards grad students compared to others in its league. Conversely, there are small, non-selective private universities near us that some students adjunct at, and they pay $1500-2000 per class. I have a few friends who’ve done it, and none of them say it’s worth the time or the bus fare.
    My point isn’t that I have it great (for now, at least), so who cares, but rather, extrapolating from averages is hard, particularly given the heterogeneity in institutional reimbursement. Tenured faculty in my department is very supportive of our Grad Student Union, and have helped secure raises and health insurance for grad students. This doesn’t do anything for the much worse off adjuncts at other schools though. Inequality exists inter- and intra- school, and it might be very likely the inter-school inequality is worse than intra-school inequality, but that’s a much harder problem for the faculty or administration of any particular institution to deal with. Inequality in adjuncting also reflects general inequality of institutions, where some schools have billions of dollars in endowments and others barely scrape by. Some schools can offer students lavish scholarships and state of the art technology, while others have to cut their foreign language departments. You yourself posted a link arguing that schools could cut tuition by paying faculty less or just hiring adjuncts. Given the pressures that 1) taxpayers (including yourself!) don’t want fund higher education, 2) parents don’t want to pay skyrocketing admissions, 3) people seem to have bought the koolaide that admin needs to make corporate level salaries and campuses need to look like country clubs, and 4) teaching as a profession and teachers unions are totally acceptable punching bags these days, the adjunctification of higher ed is not going to change, no matter what any particular faculty at any particular institution do.

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  24. Okay, I’m surrounded by 50 colleges. I’ve worked, as an adjunct, at 3 of them, have pursued positions at several others. The lowest I got paid was $3200 per course, the highest was $6000. Never ever ever was I offered a full load, which at best would have put me at $24,000, maybe $30,000, mostly because if they did that, then they’d have to give me benefits. Which is expensive. I know for a fact that UPenn has faculty making over $200k and adjuncts making $18k – $30k.
    I got a job as a NTT full time faculty member, making $50k. I turned it down because it was a pay cut from my administrative position and a work increase. 4 classes at 22-25 students each, 6 papers per semester. The math just didn’t add up.
    I wish they would report the median income and not the mean. One super star making $300k in the business school skews the results. If Bill Gates walks into a bar, the average income suddenly jumps to over $1 million, but the median doesn’t move much at all.
    I’ve known tons of people who haven’t gotten tenure, for all kinds of capricious reasons. And, I’d argue that all these places are busy competing with Harvard and Yale when they really should be focusing on teaching instead of making their faculty try to publish in the same places as the Ivy League folks. Great if they can, but then they’ll probably move on to a better place.
    I got out of higher ed because it was a stupid place to work. It was dog eat dog, absolutely no sense of community or mutual support, and the money is crap. If I hadn’t gotten the job I have now (which pays more than any TT or nonTT job I applied for), I would have gotten certified and tried to work in a public school. For all the crap that’s raining down on teachers right now, at least the pay is still good.
    Something really is going to give in higher ed, and soon. You can’t cut costs so much and charge so much for something that may or may not be worth it. As soon as the first person gets hired with certifications from MOOCs, and is deemed just as good as the person with a degree (or worse, better than that person), we’ll see a groundswell of folks hopping on that bandwagon. I happen to think there’s great value in the face-to-face and the interactions between faculty and students that you can’t get online, but that’s expensive. Either a school needs to sell that and sell it well or they just give up and let the MOOCs take over. With adjuncts, they’re halfway there anyway.

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  25. My local community college pays adjuncts $1,800 per class. That’s three and a half months of work. 30-50 students. Lecture plus PP. Office hours. Answering student e-mails. Essay exams. Maybe I’m asshole who puts too much time into my classes, but I think with all that you couldn’t put in less than 6 hours per week. You know how long it takes to grade 50 essays on “how a bill becomes a law?”
    $1,800 per class. No health insurance.
    Even when I was adjunct at CUNY 15 years ago, I made $3,000. I’m stunned that adjunct pay seems to be going down.
    Laura/Geeky Mom – Really, really happy for you that you’ve landing on your feet and you’re making more money than a TT faculty. You should write up your story for the Chronicle. They have that “life outside the academy” column.

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  26. The story is that a whole lot of house elves are doing the teaching work and some day, they are going to get really pissed off.
    Until they get pissed off enough to form/join a union, nothing is going to change.

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  27. Our CC is in a union state: the dept holds to at least 70% full-time faculty. Adjuncts get benefits and are on the salary-scale (not per course) when teaching more than 4 credits. Efforts are made to get people into full-time loads, not to prevent that from happening. We haven’t had a raise in 4-5 years (maybe this contract?), and even the highest column on the pay scale is under $100,000, but it seems less relatively reasonable. Adjuncts don’t often have opportunities for summer classes which can add $10-20,000.

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  28. A new teacher in NC will make $30,800 a year in base pay; after 20 years, without a master’s degree or national board certification, that salary rises to $42,820. There are local supplements ($5,627 in Charlotte-Mecklenberg; $6,031 in Wake, just under $6k in Durham and Orange County) — those supplements are provided to address cost-of-living disparities (and informally to recruit the best teachers). Having a master’s degree gets you just over $3k more a year.
    Its extremely dangerous to talk about teaching salaries as if all of us lived in the Northeast, or as if teachers salaries were not linked in some way to median local income. I’d love to see that chart, in fact: how does the average teacher’s salary compare to the average median income by state.

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  29. I’d like to see median teacher salaries compared to median overall salaries, I mean. It looks like I’d have to settle for averages.

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  30. “Even when I was adjunct at CUNY 15 years ago, I made $3,000. I’m stunned that adjunct pay seems to be going down.”
    You’d have to compare the same institution to same institution. Your NJ community college is a different beast than CUNY.

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  31. I think B.I. is right about the diversity of institutions. Locally, the grad stipends are sufficient that I know a number of grad wife SAHMs. Also, from what I hear, the problem is keeping the college from replacing retiring senior faculty with junior faculty. (There are also various issues with the college cheaping out on teaching replacements for sabbaticals. It’s especially annoying when another institution is paying the absent faculty member a visiting professorship, so the college is not out any money for the sabbatical.)
    The pressure to cut corners is probably the same everywhere, it’s just that it means something different at every level.

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  32. Jody – Sigh. This discussion is about adjuncts. The only reason that I brought up teachers’ salaries was to provide a useful comparison between teacher professions within the same geographic area. If an elementary school teacher makes $50K here, then full time college professors (tenure track or not) should get paid at least the same amount.
    BTW, this post is getting passed around quite a bit right now.

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  33. Correct me if I’m getting this wrong, but my impression is that Laura is talking about how the system has created the problem of dead-end adjuncting/PT lecturers simply because it’s in the system’s interest.
    We’re cheap labor for the neoliberal university.
    And true, we’re not hired to do research. However, in order to get out of the adjunct/PT cycle we still have to do research and produce work.
    So, we’re hired to take on a teaching load that doesn’t give us the benefit of research time or support.
    And, unlike full time faculty, our academic career building activity is extra-curricular.
    Teaching 5 days a week at two different universities, and trying to publish leaves you with very little time for ‘life.’
    And, to clarify, when I say “teaching” – I mean Teaching. Not just babbling incoherently at students so that I can get out of the classroom and back to my own research.

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  34. Laura — Yeah, I did actually catch the topic of the post. You brought up teachers’ salaries, I had the time to point out that NJ isn’t the model for the country (in fact, it’s the highest-paid state in the nation, for starting teachers at least).
    So, if I’m following the arguments of multiple posts in the past few months, you’re arguing that middle-class kids should attend low-cost universities, because private liberal arts colleges are a waste of money. You’re also arguing that it shouldn’t be so hard for typical upper-middle-class kids to get into those expensive universities, maybe? But now you’re arguing that the low-cost universities need to stop paying slave wages for their employees. Which raises the question: who’s going to pay for adjuncts to be paid a living wage? Where is that cash going to come from?
    If we send our kids to private, liberal arts schools (first they have to be admitted), it will be precisely because those high-cost schools are the ones where the vast majority of classes are taught by full-time, tenure-track employees. We will know what we’re paying for and we’ll consider it an investment well-spent.
    I was doing my PhD at Cal-Berkeley and I know exactly who does the labor at state universities these days. I also know that no one is paying those universities enough to hire enough professors to grade the papers instead. We know it’s a broken system: what exactly is the solution here? (Other than the obvious, which both you and I took: to stop giving away our labor for nearly-free.)

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  35. Cute, MH.
    I have no idea why it flagged me that way. As I’m typing now, it says I’m signed in as Jody, just as it did half an hour ago.

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  36. Here’s what I’m arguing:
    1. Kids should get a quality college education with an under 20-grand loan debt. In some cases, students will achieve this goal better at a public college, but not always.
    2. Colleges should provide this education without utilizing sub-minimum wage workers.
    Call me a CRAZY liberal, but I strongly believe in both 1 and 2. If colleges can’t do 1 and 2, in a very short time, they will become irrelevant.

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  37. I am well aware of the topic of the post. My point was that adjunct labor is being undervalued partly because it is teaching labor, which is traditionally undervalued across the spectrum of education (including higher ed), and which Laura has spoken of dismissively in the past. Research labor is valued differently, for many reasons that have already been stated, and K-12 teachers receive higher pay and benefits, which makes their work load more balanced by incentives than adjuncting.
    I agree wholeheartedly with Jody that using NJ, or any mid-atlantic coastal state, as a bellwether for salaries or cost-of-living in the country is not really the best persuasive move. My secondary point is that universities simply don’t care whether adjuncts ever get out of the adjunct cycle–they are hiring them to teach courses and have no vested interest in furthering their professional development. Publishing/research etc is indeed extracurricular–that is the reality of adjuncting.
    I also want to clarify that while I am currently a K-12 teacher, I did my time in the adjunct trenches, teaching at multiple schools, including a community college (where I was paid $2000 per course) and trying to publish on side, all as a mother of two kids. I presented at several conferences and had some academic work published as well, trying to establish my credentials before I decided to ditch the whole enterprise. I also was a waitress at the time, because my family needed the money, and once had the “pleasure” of waiting on a community college administrator who recognized me from my teaching work on campus. That was awkward. All of this is to say I am familiar with the adjuncting landscape and the exploitation therein, and that I do believe it’s a terrible system.
    Where I think Laura and I disagree is that I don’t think the system will change without putting a higher premium on the value of good teaching, and therefore, those who teach and teach well. Higher ed has not embraced this, thus far.

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  38. How does that work economically, Laura? Forty years ago, we as a nation spent significant state taxpayer money on low-cost bachelor’s-degree education. Since then, our population has grown exponentially as our spending on higher ed has stalled and then plummeted.
    I’m as liberal as it gets, and I want to know: how do we pay for this? How do undergrads get taught by full-time teachers receiving a living wage without going into massive debt? State funding? I support that 100%. You just argued last week that the states should be spending their money on preschool instead.

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  39. God, I’m getting pissed off at stupidity!! I mentioned the NJ teaching scale ONLY BECAUSE I WANTED TO ADD SOME CONTEXT TO ADJUNCT SALARIES. IF YOU CAN’T COMMENT WITHOUT ATTITUDE, THEN PLEASE DON’T COMMENT AT ALL. I DON’T GET PAID FOR WRIITING THIS AND I AM UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO RESPOND TO EVERY BITCHY COMMENT. IF YOU CAN’T WRITE SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE, THEN PLEASE DON’T. I’M GOING TO START BANNING PEOPLE.

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  40. And why the fuck should I be the one to figure out a college budget? That’s not my job. My job is to call attention to a fucked up situation. And I’m going to keep doing it over and over and over again.
    If a burger shop can’t figure out how to serve a $5 burger and pay its workers the state mandated minimum wage, it goes bankrupt. Maybe the same thing should happen to colleges that can’t pay its workers properly and serves students mediocre and over priced education.

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  41. I think that you’re not going to get both your points #1 & #2, and certainly not #2. If you get an inexpensive education it’s going to be either because 1) underpaid labor is being heavily used or 2) some form of massive teaching (online or not) is being used. As far as I can tell, there’s no force at all that’s being applied to undo the devaluing of teaching (except unions, and those are becoming less and less effective, even at the K-12 level). Instead, the forces I see at play are trying to figure out ways of applying leverage models to teaching (one of the few remaining “flat” structures, where many people are needed). Examples include the MOOCs (in which the one “teacher” extracts whatever comp there is and splits it with his provider), curriculum plans (where the curriculum producer extracts the value, and commodified teachers present the curriculum), labor masquerading as training (adjuncts, Teach for America, . . .) with a constantly churning labor supply.
    I find the trends sad at many levels; But, I also think it’s unrealistic to expect much more from winners in the system (i.e. the tenured profs getting paid a living wage for work they love) than a request for more money to be allocated to the system and maybe, sympathy.
    I am currently completely unimpressed by the current marketing campaign from researchers receiving federal funds on the tragic situation they face. I am willing to pay more taxes, but right now, I’m feeling like everyone is acting with extreme self-centeredness.
    PS: I’m not sure what comments have induced the caps, which are pretty scary 🙂 But, I always respect Laura’s right to close the comments and end the discussion if her buttons are getting pressed.

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  42. “So, if I’m following the arguments of multiple posts in the past few months, you’re arguing that middle-class kids should attend low-cost universities, because private liberal arts colleges are a waste of money. You’re also arguing that it shouldn’t be so hard for typical upper-middle-class kids to get into those expensive universities, maybe? But now you’re arguing that the low-cost universities need to stop paying slave wages for their employees. Which raises the question: who’s going to pay for adjuncts to be paid a living wage? Where is that cash going to come from?”
    Exactly.
    Expensive schools often care a lot about teaching and students and pay good salaries. Whether they’re worth the extra money to the students is a tricky question, though.
    “My secondary point is that universities simply don’t care whether adjuncts ever get out of the adjunct cycle–they are hiring them to teach courses and have no vested interest in furthering their professional development.”
    In fact, if you have a quality person adjuncting for you, it’s in your best interests for them to never escape.
    I’ve been an adjunct and I was happy with my wages at the time, but it was ESL, so not huge amounts of prep required. It wasn’t like I was in paper-grading hell, like a lot of you are in. I was worth basically what they paid me. (They should have found out if I knew anything about punctuation before giving me a punctuation class, though. That one was a relative gold mine–it was a short course that worked out to $75 an hour per classroom hour. It must have been a clerical error.)

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  43. I think the problem is that there really isn’t any governing authority over all universities. Meaningful change can’t happen because the market isn’t working/can’t work as a corrective mechanism, and there is no governmental authority forcing all colleges to abide by the same rules.
    We could do it through accrediting agencies, which could refuse to accredit universities where, say, more than 20% of courses are taught by adjuncts. Or we could make it 10% or 1% or none.

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  44. “governing authority over all universities. Meaningful change can’t happen because the market isn’t working/can'”
    There is, actually. It’s the USNWR rankings. They’re the ones who could cut the raw score of any school by the same number as its percentage of adjuncts!

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  45. How about some data? Here is the average faculty salary by state (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251081.htm). For comparison’s sake, here’s the teacher salary by state (http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/). And here is about the only info I could easily find on adjunct salaries (http://adjunct.chronicle.com/). The AAUP site is down, and the detailed Chronicle info is behind a paywall. So, comparisons. In NJ, teacher salary is $66k. Faculty salary is $75k and adjunct salary is around $3200 per class on average (just eyballing). If (and that’s a big if) one gets 4-5 classes at a NJ institution, one makes a max of $16k. Pennsylvania is similar, though adjunct pay is actually significantly higher than NJ (average around $5-6k per class). Looking NC, the pay is lower for both teachers and faculty, but similar to PA for adjunct pay, and perhaps even better. So I’d argue location matters for cost of living, obviously, and there seem to be adjustments made for full-time salaries, but part-time is actually worse in NJ where col is higher. Clearly, they’re not adjusting for that.
    How do we change that? No clue. Maybe people should stop working for that kind of pay. Seriously, if no one took those jobs, what would happen? But people take them because they hope for a full time job. It’s like buying a lottery ticket.

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  46. Until they get pissed off enough to form/join a union, nothing is going to change.
    This is it. There simply isn’t any way for anyone to wave a magic wand and make adjunct salaries higher. Without a nation-wide, powerful union, nothing will happen. Taxpayers don’t want to pay more for higher ed. Parents don’t want to pay more for tuition. Few people seem interested in redistributing the wealth from college presidents make 7 figures and endless campus improvement projects. None of this is going to happen on its own. It’s hard to talk about this when you get super defensive towards people who agree with you (adjuncts should be paid more, or better yet, should get full-time jobs as lecturers or professors), but don’t see tenured faculty as the cause of this problem.
    Also, dave s.’s solution sounds like a good idea.

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  47. Hi, great post! Minor correction — assistant professors are tenure-track, but not tenured. An assistant professor (tenure track/untenured) earns about what you say for the small college professor, at least at MSU.

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  48. All this talk of unionizing does NOTHING for those adjuncts in “right to work” state, which, in higher ed here means “right to ‘indentured-servitude’ work,” I guess.
    2,500 per course, some people teaching 6-8 courses in one department and more at other colleges, to make a living wage.
    I like the burger shop comparison. Universities are fucked-up and there’s no solution in sight, that’s for sure.
    Someone commented at a meeting last week that at my husband’s university lots of tuition money goes to try to build up and keep a millions-worth football program. Literally, money down the drain. Maybe we should also remember sorts programs into this discussion. I think they are an important factor in certain universities — money is being diverted from academics into sports because of the need to attract powerful donors, etc, etc.
    Thanks for bringing the adjunct issue up again and again. It’s really important.(even though the discussion can get volatile at times, sigh…).

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  49. L,
    Well, the sad state of organized labor in our country is the larger issue that needs working on. That there are “right to work” states is a problem. It’s appearing like addressing the increasing neo-liberalization of our society piecemeal isn’t really getting anywhere though. If people can think of stop-gap measures, that’s great (like maybe the UNWR thing), but in the long run, workers are going to have to organize and fight for their rights, and we’re going to have to make a decision collectively about what our societal priorities are.

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