I’m a relatively new adjunct instructor at two colleges. I earned a Master’s degree in my field because I wanted to teach at the post-secondary level. For the first time in my life, I have a career that I enjoy. I know that being in the classroom is where I’m meant to be. Being an adjunct isn’t without its detractions: lack of respect from full-time, tenured professors and administrators, job uncertainty, and no benefits. The biggest drawback by far is the absurdly low pay that colleges and universities dole out to adjunct instructors.
I teach one course at a community college and three courses at a four year college this semester. At most institutions teaching 3-4 courses is considered a full teaching course load for a full-time instructor, making the instructor eligible for a full-time salary and benefits. Since I was hired as an adjunct instructor, I’m not eligible for a full-time salary or benefits, even though I’m teaching the same number of courses as full-time professors. For the four courses I’m teaching this semester, I’m being paid $5900. Besides the 12 hours spent inside the classroom, I have on-campus office hours in case any of my students need to meet with me, and I typically spend 30+ hours a week preparing lesson plans and lectures, creating presentations and tests, grading homework, papers, and exams. If I calculate my workweek at 40 hours over the course of a 15 week semester, my hourly wage comes out to $9.33. As a single parent, this puts my family 150% below the federal poverty level, making us eligible for food stamps. Unfortunately, this is what adjunct instructors have to accept if they have any hopes of obtaining a coveted full-time teaching position. After this semester I hope to either secure a full-time teaching position with a living wage, a full-time non-teaching job, or additional adjunct courses at other colleges to augment my income.
What I find so ironic about being a highly educated adjunct instructor is that at both institutions I teach at, I receive numerous notifications about fundraising efforts. One of the colleges e-mails a daily bulletin to faculty and staff extolling their charitable endeavors. I also received a United Way fundraising letter from the college. What’s distressing is that I’m about to contact the United Way to see if I can receive assistance for my family. The other college I work at sends e-mails on an almost daily basis describing the various fundraising initiatives they’re participating in. Chances are, I’ll be applying for assistance from the very charities that they’re raising money for.
I wonder if it occurs to the administrators at the colleges that some of their adjuncts find themselves in the position of needing assistance from the same charitable organizations they’re raising money for.