Crowdsourcing a Compilation of Adjunct Working Conditions

Google Doc – (update 5.24.12: Access the spreadsheet via the Adjunct Project website)

Yesterday, Michael Bérubé, president of the Modern Language Association and newfound hero of contingent faculty everywhere, published the essay “Among the Majority” on the MLA website. The piece is a reflection on the New Faculty Majority’s 2012 Summit he attended last weekend in Washington, DC, as well as a recap of some of the MLA’s recently-released recommendations for fair standards concerning non-tenure track faculty. In the essay, Bérubé specifically cites this beauty of a quote:

Following a review of best practices in various institutions, the MLA recommends minimum compensation for 2011–12 of $6,800 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $4,530 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course. These recommendations are based on a full-time load of 3 courses per semester (6 per year) or 3 courses per quarter or trimester (9 per year); annual full-time equivalent thus falls in a range of $40,770 to $40,800.

Almost $7K per course! Most adjuncts have never seen anything close to that figure. I personally have taught at schools that pay right at or below $2000 maximum per course. Feel free to do the math on that one (Hint: a 5/5 pays $20,000 annually). You can be a terrible human being and still recognize that a full-time teacher should earn much more than that. Just in case you’re not familiar with the usual procedure, full-time professors generally teach much less than 10 courses per year. Some teach as few as three. The MLA’s recommendation is based on the assumption of a 3/3 teaching load, which sounds about perfect. I would venture to say most adjuncts would agree. Three courses per semester is ideal because it allows teaching to be the primary focus (as it should be), and it also permits some time for research and professional development. So, about $40,000 a year. That isn’t too much to ask I don’t think. Especially considering all adjuncts have advanced degrees in their fields.

Sadly, though, as I have mentioned, this level of compensation is very, very rare. Most adjuncts are paid far less. And somehow the university system continues to justify it. Which brings me to my next point.


I am so sick of hearing people say, “Well, let the market determine salaries. As long as people accept the pay, it must be okay.” This logic is completely asinine, and frankly I am surprised that anyone who thinks of himself or herself as an intelligent person accepts it. According to this argument, the exploitative post-Civil War sharecropping system, and the oppressive factory conditions of the Industrial Revolution must also be okay because “people chose to work there.” It’s pretty much universally accepted now that both of these systems were unfair to the workers due to the ultimate power held by the corporations in a time that the economic state of the nation left few options for the worker.

As adjunct professors, we are in a similar situation. Not quite the same—I admit that. But, similar. We teach because we love to teach. This is what we are trained to do, and it’s what we want to do. And the jobs exist. It’s not as though we are trying to force ourselves into a flooded market. Most of us are employed as professors. The need exists. The problem is there are few options for those of us who do it. If we want to be teachers, we are forced to do it for peanuts. Why can’t the adjunct positions we all hold come with a living wage? I don’t want to start on this all-too-familiar rant; the point is the market has no conscience. Everything is not up to it. At least, it shouldn’t be.

I also attended the New Faculty Majority summit and I wrote a post in which I discussed many of the same issues as Bérubé. I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am that he and the MLA (in addition to other groups like the AAUP and the AAC&U) have begun to take up this cause. It is a very real problem and it is threatening to endanger the future of higher education. The problem extends far beyond the adjunct professors alone. If the adjunct wages are not brought closer to that of tenured professors, there will be no economic incentive to continue hiring full-time professors. Why pay someone $70K when they can pay someone to do it for less than $10K? Obviously this doesn’t at all take into consideration the work done by professors outside of the classroom. It reduces everyone to a number. This is really a terrible way to describe any profession, but it is especially flagrant in the context of education.

I call attention to this flagrancy because ultimately, it comes down to the students. I have colleagues who go to work every day to teach young minds. To make them better writers, better thinkers, and better people. And then they go home and eat Ramen noodles for dinner, and worry about whether or not they have enough gas in the tank to coast to work the rest of the week. Ramen is no longer cool in your thirties. Trust me.

All I’m asking for is a very modest salary to do a job that I love, and for which there is a clear demand or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Apparently, Bérubé and the MLA agree.

In light of this new pay recommendation, I’ve decided to start collecting data about how many schools come close to this standard. By making this information public, we can recognize the schools that are doing a great job (like my school, the University of Georgia, for example). They deserve to be patted on the back for their good work. On the other hand, we will also be able expose those schools that have chosen to ignore the basic human rights of their employees and shortchange their students and their communities by devaluing the very education they pretend to celebrate.

In order to begin this process, I’ve created a Google Doc to crowdsource information from adjuncts about the adjunct working conditions at their respective universities. Things like course pay, benefits, retirement, and contracts. Let’s combine forces and establish which schools are doing good work, and which are doing bad. Fill in as much information as you feel comfortable doing, and be sure to tweet this document and share it via Facebook, email, listserv, or anywhere else you can think of.

At the summit, we discussed the idea of creating a “Hall of Fame” of the best universities to work for. I would like to see hundreds of schools get added to this list. Eventually, faculty treatment might even become a standard in the accreditation process. This is a good start. If you have current information on the compensation practices for a school, check out the document and add it to the list.

See Also:

The Disposable Professor

First-Year Commodity: The Adjunct Professor Labor Crisis in Composition Departments

91 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing a Compilation of Adjunct Working Conditions

  1. michelle

    I love the Hall of Fame Idea. Love the post and I’ll stay in touch with that document. Your posts always make me think and I always end up running away with it and going off on related tangents. This time is no different. I’ll count it toward a chapter in my manifesto ;).

    To be honest, I would do the 3/3 and 3 in the summer for $35,000 + benefits. Take the summer classes out, I’ll do it for $30k+benefits. For real. For me, the benefits alone would be worth the pay cut from $40k to $30k.

    In order to get that level of pay, however, Admins. would have to take a cut, maybe even lose a few jobs where jobs could be combined and streamlined. If anyone wants to know where the money is at–Administration is the answer. I know someone who runs a small program on my small campus who makes $75k a year! She should probably make $50-55k tops, I’ll even be generous and say $60k.(Take what’s left over and give it to me for a FT job!)

    That’s just one admin. Think of all the admins. all over college campuses. That’s a whole lotta dough clumped in one side of the pan. I don’t really want to turn this into an “us” vs. “them” battle because that won’t solve problems (as we see daily on Capitol Hill). But colleges/universities are always desperate to recruit, desperate to retain and until we start treating education as a valuable asset and proving that it is by funneling the money toward that end, schools are going to have a difficult time with retention and recruitment. Further, most admins., including the one in my above example, only have a Masters! The same level of education I have!!! I think that qualifies for a WTF.

    After all, how can we convince our students of the notion that education pays, education is valuable if their instructors are living hand to mouth? Wouldn’t that be a big cause for retention rates to drop? What would be the point for them to stay in school if their own professor is living off beans and rice? Think about the message our situation sends to them. And isn’t the impoverished professor just more justification in the students’ mind that university ought to be a glorified vo-tech school? At least with HVAC repair you’ll have a decent wage with benefits. Ever had your A/C fixed? I guarantee they make more than I do–way more. (Of course, in Kentucky in July without A/C most people would give their first born along with their life savings to have the AC on). Nevertheless, with all my “book learnin'” I’m supposed to be a white collar professional. I’m supposed to, at least in theory, make better money than the blue collar workers–that’s the stereotype, right? (forgive my stroke of elitism there). But that’s the reason so many kids from blue collar families (I’m one) go to college in the first place, to try to climb the ladder into a “better life.” Though my definition of what constitutes a better life keeps changing over the years, it still includes decent money, benefits, a job I love, a job that challenges and stimulates me.

    But where’s the incentive for good educators to enter and stay in the education market when it’s so bleak? Where’s the incentive for students to strive for higher education when they see that the HVAC repairman makes more money with less training/loan debt than their learned professors? If I weren’t in so deep right now (age/school loans), I’d consider going to vo-tech school myself to learn radiology or something. Hell, if I get sick enough of all this, I just might do it anyway. In light of all this, we can’t be surprised when our education standards and the value of education plummet and when our students simply don’t see the “need” for a liberal education; which results in much needed arts and humanities programs getting axed. But that rant goes in my other manifesto.

      1. michelle

        Totally agree. When the coach at UK makes 2+ million a year…that’s a biiiiig freaking problem. A neon sign couldn’t be sending the anti-education message more clearly.

      2. Bryan

        I agree to an extent. But to be fair, at UK, the athletics association is self-supporting and Kentucky’s coach is only (I know it seems silly to say “only”) paid $400,000 as salary. The rest comes from advertising and sponsorship compensations. Of course, at a smaller school, like WKU, the athletics budget is not self-supporting (WKU loses money on athletics–advertising and corporate sponsors are the only thing that keeps it afloat as no one goes to games) and the cost is incurred by the students. That is definitely a problem.

        I think all of this is really just a consequence of de-funding of education in this country, which is why universities turn to soulless corporations for handouts, and which is why universities can’t pay us what we’re worth!

        By the way, Josh, the spreadsheet is a very good idea. Looks like UGA is a pretty good place to work, all things considered.

        1. Josh Boldt

          Thanks, Bryan. Yeah, UGA is a great place to work. Part of the reason I’ve gotten so involved in this movement now is I have seen what is possible. I want every adjunct to know what it’s like to actually be appreciated by his or her employer. By the way, I have to admit I didn’t realize that about UK Athletics. Thanks for clarifying.

      3. jane miller

        Unfortunately, athletics is how Universities make money. I can’t tell you how many times the athletic department has saved our campus libraries from shutting their doors.

    1. Jen

      I’ve worked as an Administrative support staff member at 3 large state universities. At all of them, I made less than $25K and my supervisor/director made less than $40K. In one office, our budget had remained stagnant for 5 years before being cut by 10% and my supervisor had to run 3 tenuously related units because the university felt those could be “streamlined.” The problem with this system is the same one that adjuncts run into: “it must be working because things are getting done and people take the jobs.” In reality, the staff are just treading water and university support staff turnover is reaching an all time high.

      I’m sympathetic to the adjunct pay crisis. My husband is an adjunct professor making less than $3,000 per course and I am currently on the adjunct market. I think the whole system for non-tenure track employees, most lower level admins, and support staff is broken.

  2. Maria Maisto

    Your crowdsourced document will be a great supplement to more formal research that has been and is also being done. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce will soon release the results of a huge contingent faculty compensation survey. And a few years ago AAUP constructed a contingent faculty index. And we have some research projects planned as well,so there may well be some interesting and really helpful overlap.

    Here’s an idea: let’s see if we can target the schools that the Chronicle of Higher Ed recently identified as “the best schools to work for” and find out whether contingent faculty on those campuses would agree! Same with other institutions that are identified as “great” or “innovative” on other fronts/using other criteria.

    See for example the new prize for community college excellence from The Aspen Institute: Interestingly, Miami Dade Community College was commended by The Aspen Institute for excellence just months after it was cited by its accreditor for having too many part-time faculty (of course the real question should be not how many part-time faculty a school has but how well they are treated and integrated into the core instructional mission of the institution).

    What do you think?

    1. Josh Boldt

      Sounds great, Maria. I am, of course, welcoming anyone and everyone to add to the spreadsheet, but I will keep an eye out for schools on The Chronicle’s list. It will be interesting to see how those schools are reviewed by NTT faculty. Especially in light of that whole Miami Dade CC debacle.

    2. Esther Merves

      I am meeting today with an NFM volunteer who is going to do an analysis of the 2011 data from the Chronicle’s “Great colleges to work for, ” from an adjunct faculty point of view. Will be in touch with the results.

  3. VanessaVaile

    fwiw recent studies rank crowdsourcing equal to “formal studies” in reliability of data, networking advantage yields more data

    1. Josh Boldt

      Hi Jerry,

      Thanks for helping out. Hopefully, this spreadsheet ends up making the rounds, and gathering us all a lot of good information. The document will allow me to filter it by column, so we’ll be able to identify the best paying schools, the schools that offer benefits, even the best states to teach in. Should be pretty enlightening.

  4. VanessaVaile

    We can probably make some pretty good guess about worst states. About states, that won’t be uniform within states. California community colleges, for example, are administered by local school districts, K-14, and pay in all over the map from as high as any place in the country to as low as the lowest states (NM and LA among them),

    I RT’d the post yesterday but will give it more coverage, send it out again wrapped in more narrative. I’m assuming you’ve posted to The Compost, Profology, FAIR, Con Job, etc. You do know, don’t you, that you can post to the NFM wall?

    Send links, information,etc with a note to Pamela Hanford, or, Director, Publications of California Part-time Faculty Association, and editor of CPFA Journal.

    Bullhorn is the New Paltz UUP newsletter and Peter is Chapter President. I’ll check my rss reader and send you a list…. and of course add anyone else you connected with at the Summit. I’d just been thinking about how best to increase connections among existing niche networks and weak connections, This project (and others) should do that by just doing it ….

  5. Alan Trevithick

    Wonderful idea-elsewhere I’ve posted more or less what follows, but it may be ok to do it again, to give folks some ideas about how hard they have to dig.
    Think about the reporting on numbers of PT and FT faculty: many of us have noticed serious disparities between what the U.S. Education Department gets, for instance, and what’s actually the case. In connection with this, it

    1. VanessaVaile

      Alan ~ about your numbers question: crowdsource it! Send out adjunct and contingent faculty across the nation to gather and share information on ten-fac// “non-tenurable” ratios across the country ~ shine a light on “look who’s teaching now”

  6. Sarah Beth Hopton

    Do you want to include for-profit institutional pay for adjuncts in your Google doc? If so, I’ll contribute happily, as they are part of the problem in that their compensation packages match most universities hour for hour even though their tuition is often two and three times higher, keeping the ceiling artificially low.

  7. Amanda Rudd

    Reblogged this on Amanda Rudd's Blog and commented:
    For those who are unfamiliar with adjuncting conditions, here is some good (and depressing) information about what many of your college instructors live on. Folks, it ain’t pretty. There has been much discussion in various places (such as the MLA, various teachers organizations, and a few individual departments) about assuring that adjuncts can receive a livable wage and some basic benefits. But the chances of forcing universities and colleges to do this when they’ve been getting away with not doing it for so long are pretty slim unless enough people make enough noise about it.

  8. anotherdamnedmedievalist

    Since I’m FT and have what is sometimes called “tenure-equivalent,” I won’t be filling out anything on adjunct pay. But I do think that the recommendations might need to be tailored to different sorts of institutions. When I taught as an adjunct, then visiting faculty (for several years before I landed this job six years ago) I was paid $3100 per course, on a 3+3+3 load. But because I taught over 50% time at one place, I did get benefits, as well. The visiting job was FT, and I think I made $46k plus benefits.

    I now teach 4-4 with a one-course research release, have a lot more service (easily 5-7 hours a week), and am required to do research (albeit an amount where promotion can be achieved with reasonable effort and self-funding research trips in the summers. I’m at associate level, and department chair. Based on the $6800 figure, and taking out my promotion increase (less than a month’s gross income), I make less than that, but have full benefits, which are nothing to sneeze at.

    Still, I think there are many SLACs like mine, which are tuition-driven, have a religious affiliation, and relatively low salaries. Our overload and/or summer pay per course for full professors is less than the recommendation for adjuncts. This means that our adjunct wages are impossibly low, and many FT faculty and some administrators have been working really hard to get better adjunct pay and at least some benefits for longer-term adjuncts who teach >50% (no service).

    Anyway, while I entirely agree on everything that decries the way higher ed relies on adjuncts, I think sometimes the picture has to take into account the relative pay of FT faculty. I think most of my colleagues in the non-professional divisions would be happy to see adjuncts get paid close to what we get, with benefits, but with an adjustment for not having to advise, run clubs, do assessment work, etc. Maybe 60% of similarly ranked T-T faculty plus benefits, or 75-80% without would be a way of figuring things, other than a flat rate?

    1. Josh Boldt

      Thanks so much for adding that perspective. Your suggestion of a percentage arrangement for determining adjunct pay makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, I worked with a group in Kentucky for awhile that was advocating just that. Something like 60-80% of TT faculty salary (depending on advising, assessment, etc. responsibilities) is a very reasonable suggestion. Thanks again for weighing in on this matter, and for your vote of support.

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  10. John

    Could you move the comments on the spreadsheet to a separate “sheet” on it? They make it much harder to read. Thanks.

  11. Scott

    Do you want data from other countries (i.e. Canada or the UK)? I took a look at the data so far and it is only from the US.

    1. Josh Boldt


      Good point. I just created a new tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet for “Outside US.” If this tab begins to get a lot of activity, I will divide it up by country. Thanks for your help!

      1. Scott

        Thanks! This is a great project, thanks for setting it up. It will be interesting to see if there is a significant difference between the US and other countries.

  12. Raoul

    I think this is a great idea and I wish this awareness and organization had been around before I gave up on academia almost 10 years ago. My final year I was teaching a 4+4+3 (5 of which were brand new courses to me) and making less money than the janitors who (occasionally) emptied my trash. I was then criticized by the same dept. for not conducting research when I alone was responsible for over 50% of the student contact hours in a department of 9 faculty (for less than 40% of a full time faculty salary).

    I took my skills to IT consulting and I’m happy here. I miss teaching, and was very good at it – winning awards within the college multiple times. But personally, I wasn’t going to participate in such a screwed-up system. I wish everyone luck in collecting this info and working together to fix this appalling mess. But I would also let you know that there are many options outside academia for most of you, even if it isn’t apparent at the moment. It’s a scary leap to leave, but there are fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding careers here as well.

    1. Charlie

      So true. However, college and university teaching affords professional and social connections unavailable otherwise. That is why it has become a club of sorts, the somewhat self-inflated prestige. Adjuncts have traditionally been non-academic professionals working a side job, not career teachers. No one expected to make a ‘career’ of being an adjunct. This is as new perspective that the institutions should address.

      1. Margaret Hanzimanolis

        Charlie, I don’t know what era you are referring to when you say “traditionally” adjuncts have been non-academic professionals. Certainly not in the humanities. At least not in the past twenty eight years. In the humanities adjuncts were often faculty wives in the 50s and 60s, but virtually never “non-academic” professionals.

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    1. Josh Boldt


      I appreciate your advice. However, one of my goals with this spreadsheet is to connect adjuncts. Including one’s name on the document helps unite us with each other, and it also allows us to stand up for ourselves publicly. I would also mention that no one is required to add his or her name. As you can see, many have opted to post anonymously, which is also fine.

    1. Josh Boldt


      I actually noticed that another link wasn’t active. I tried to get it working, but no luck. I’m not quite sure what’s up with it at this point; I’ll keep trying. Cervisi was a landmark decision, and I appreciate you sharing it here.

  14. John Stone

    I’d be happy to encourage some of my colleagues at the U of Barcelona to post to this site about their working conditions as adjunct staff with a 50% or 75% course load. I believe the salary for a 50% course load works out to under US$700 per month, before taxes. It might also interest our colleagues in the US to learn that *every* assistant professor in Spain who’s up for tenure this year, at *all* of Spain’s public universities, including *all* tenure-track staff who have been vetted for tenure by a government agency tasked with assessing academic output, will be denied tenure under the terms of a executive order issued in late December imposing a total freeze on public sector hiring. (Promotion to associate professor here is legally a new hire, not a promotion.) Unless laws are changed quickly, a lot of people will be on the street next fall.
    At my own institution, that includes more than 50 staff who have passed external tenure reviews.

    1. Josh Boldt


      That whole tenure denial business in Spain is terrible. What an outrageous injustice. I welcome you and your colleagues to add to the spreadsheet. By request, I added a tab at the bottom of the sheet for “Outside US” schools. If a large concentration of Spanish schools are added, I will further subdivide.

      1. John Stone

        I would be keen on seeing a wider range of universities from all over the OECD. As for the adjunct staff in my department, those with a 75% course load and no seniority pay take home 500 euros per month, after tax withholding. In theory, they must all be employed elsewhere (often, in language schools) or self-employed (e.g. as translators), though for years the U of Barcelona ignored that requirement.

  15. Dave

    One wonders how schools will seek to lower their tuition in light of Obama’s call to action in the State of the Union. The faculty at the community college where I taught last semester is 65% adjunct @ ~$2,000 per 3-credit class.

    Last Fall I taught three sessions. For the workload, lack of faculty support and increasing indifference of the average student there was little professional, academic or financial incentive to return this semester.

    It’s a shame because I love(d) teaching; but not as much as I dislike being taken for granted.

    1. VanessaVaile

      Fascinating ~ hope it works out and spreads. I looked up an earlier (Oct 3) article and sent all three links to both NewFac board and adj-l lists ~ after scooping the two you posted to A is for Adjunct, with a side trip to the NFM Facebook wall. Now to set an alert so I can follow this,

  16. Derrick

    Great idea Josh. I try not to be a bitter adjunct, but sometimes it is hard. I will end this academic year with a 7/7 load, teaching at two different schools, and I will make between $25,000 and $30,000.

    But there is part of me that thinks the market should still determine some of this. How hard would it be for all of us to just not show up one Spring semester? Honestly, I can make almost this much money in fast food (and the only thing I bring home from work is the smell of hamburgers)

    Seriously, if it’s that bad, we shouldn’t do it. Organize a strike. At my University, about a quarter (maybe more) of the Freshman Composition courses would be shut down if the adjuncts left. At the Community College, where I also teach, about 70% of the Developmental English and Composition courses would go down.

    1. Margaret hanzimanolis

      A nationwide adjunct strike may be a very good idea. This may be the year that the idea gets some serious momentum. Or some year soon.

      1. chrisgaton

        If an adjunct strike would happen, it would be interesting to see what level of support tenured faculty would show, especially the faculty who “knows what your going through” because they “were in the same position when they started out.”

  17. Karen Backstein

    I haven’t done adjunct teaching in a long while–I no longer teach, but hold a full-time “other” job while still working as an “independent scholar.” But even back then, I saw wildly differing salaries/benefits. In state schools, if you had enough courses, you could buy into the health insurance. Other schools didn’t allow that.

    I know in one case I probably got below $2000 for the course, but had to buy a fairly high-cost train ticket to get there. That didn’t even count my rushing out of the school to get the last train or I’d be sunk.

    It goes without saying that you’ll get no support for conferences or other professional development. You’ll have to pay your own way. And, although many associations offer lower registration fees and so forth to adjuncts, airlines and hotels don’t. It’s costly, as I very well know because I still do attend conferences.

    One thing about the adjunct situation: there’s always a fresh supply of new grads who need to get experience in order (for some of them) to acquire full-time jobs. They needn’t worry. But this can mean a constant change of adjunct faculty in a university/college–and a student who needs a recommendation for graduate school two years down the line may not be able to locate a former prof. It’s just not good…

  18. Jin roh

    I very noble goal and great use of google to protest.

    Unfortunately, it’s nothing like a bit of economic malcontent to kill a love of education. This graduate cannot help you.

  19. Justin

    Thanks for getting the conversation rolling with all of this. I love the idea of a Hall of Fame as well, which might effectively turn the rest of the institutions into a Hall of Shame. I’ve long thought “Hug an Adjunct” would make for a great bumper sticker. If I take that to the next level, and you all buy one, maybe I’ll be able to afford to go to the dentist.

    What my big question is regarding all of this involves the grey area between part-time and full-time work. Specifically, in regards to faculty/staff hybrid positions. This may not be all that common of a set up, but if others have worked in a similar capacity, or if you happen to know how your college/university addresses this situation, I would really appreciate hearing about it.

    Let me explain: I have been affiliated with the same small, well-regarded private college for 4 years. For the past two years I have held a part-time faculty/staff hybrid position, teaching 16 credits a year, working as an assistant varsity coach, and as an assistant for the college’s Outdoor Program. I have also begun advising students this year (16-30 of them, for a small additional stipend). I receive no benefits and have put in a lot of effort this past year to get the college to recognize me as a full-time employee. The employee handbook at my school states that faculty become eligible for full-time if they teach 18 credits a year, and that staff become eligible for full-time if they work 30 hrs a week. All told, I am two credits short as to faculty (as are a number of my colleagues) and about 5 hrs a week short as a full-time staff member (again, I’m not alone in this), but it is having the two combined, without recognition as a full-timer, that seems unethical. The employee handbook makes no mention of faculty/staff hybrids, and the line I have been getting is that they come from two different budgets, and therefore can’t go together. Are there others out there who have experience with this? Do your colleges have some parameters in place regarding faculty/staff hybrids? Again, this is a very small school, I have probably taught/coached/supervised something like a 3rd of the student body, so the separate budgets/separate jobs argument feels a bit of a stretch to me. I question the legality of my position but am not sure what steps are even available to take. Thanks for your time.

    1. Josh Boldt


      It sounds to me like you are completely justified in your request for FT status. Your position is definitely being manipulated in order to keep you just below benefits-eligibility. What a tough situation. If I was you, I would try to gather up the others at your school who are in the same position and start organizing a plan of action. It’s possible that simply raising the issue might be enough to change it. Especially if you make a good argument for the fact that this is a fairly new phenomenon and that the employee handbook needs an update. If you face resistance, I would challenge it. You are without question doing the work required to earn benefits; at this point it is only a loophole in the handbook that is preventing it. Good luck.

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  21. VanessaVaile

    The way this has taken off and continues to grow ~ comments here and actual crowdsourcing ~ the phenomenon deserves its own post beyond link sharing and social media recycling. I would and should but have yet to get to it. Can I claim overwhelmed by following comments and entries? So many and such good ones on spreadsheet and in my mailbox ~ they deserve highlighting too. Fwiw WordPress features rss feed for comments, just not by individual post. All or nothing.

    By way of temporary compensation (a form of procrastination), I just added commentary and “scoop’d” the crowdsourcing post + docs link to send it out again to make the rounds again. Thinking beyond this action, adjuncts taking action in general, examples and ideas come to mind (and then posting about that, plus links ~ natch).

    (PS thanks for correcting yesterday’s code glitch)

  22. Josh Boldt

    I just received this open letter from a former colleague who was inspired by this post to challenge some of the unfair practices at his university. He’s planning to send this to administrators at his school, and he asked me to share it with you, as well. Others at his school have gotten behind him in support of his mission. His words follow:

    Recently in the halls near my office, I was told I needed to shave

  23. Barb C.

    Josh, is there a way to connect the crowdsourced #s to data about cost of living? I know it’s not your overall goal, but I’d like to be able to look at the data in a more standardized way at some point.

    Great idea and great work! Thanks.

    1. Josh Boldt


      I completely agree. I would love to have that context for this data. I’ll be doing my best to work that into any long-term analysis I conduct. Sure would be nice if someone offered me a book deal and an advance to live on this summer while I compile all this data. :)

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  25. Julie Mitchell

    I wholeheartedly support your project and here’s my two cents’ worth. I was an “adjunct” for over 20 years because I loved teaching (still do). Fortunately, I had other income sources and was not teaching for the money. Perhaps things have improved — although I doubt it, with the recession/budget cuts — but in my state, adjunct community college instructors are paid as little as $1200 per 3-credit-hour course. This is based on an offer I received in the fall of 2007, when a department head called and begged me to teach, sounding embarrassed and apologizing for the absurdly low pay. I declined, politely, pointing out the course met 3 times a week and with commuting 48 miles round trip for 16 weeks (2304 miles) the $1200 might cover my gas/auto maintenance costs! I was tempted to tell her I was already doing volunteer work for my community… on that note, perhaps such institutions would be more honest to advertise adjunct positions as volunteer gigs for highly educated, qualified, dedicated and motivated professionals with lots of time on their hands who want to “give back” to their communities through teaching (with small honorarium provided to cover expenses).

  26. english

    Great post & project, Josh!
    “Ramen is no longer cool in your thirties. Trust me.” It’s true.

    Actually, when I first read the title, I (mis)understood that it would be discussing the adjunct teaching pattern/trend as, itself, a cynical kind of crowdsourcing, kind of like journalism has become.

    Great to see Berube saying this stuff in MLA; now we need to get him and others saying it in front of congress, higher ed policy makers, etc. But, like you say, it’s good to see the conversation happening.

  27. Melete

    The reason colleges and universities can get away with paying sub-minimum wages to adjunct faculty is the same reason magazine and online publishers can get away with paying pennies — or even nothing — to buy content from wannabe writers: There’s always someone who will do it for that price.

    When we’re competing with people who get an ego boost out of standing in front of a bunch of freshmen or who claim to “love teaching” so much the pay doesn’t matter, we are flat out of luck. Even if adjunct faculty could, in some never-never world, manage enough collective action to organize a strike, the line of people willing to take our places forms to the right and goes down the hall and out the door.

    There’s really only one solution: If you get a tuition waiver for adjunct teaching, use it to take courses that will qualify you for a paying job.

    1. Josh Boldt


      Thank you for your comments, but I respectfully disagree. We are beginning to gain a voice that is unprecedented. We have knowledge and a platform unlike any time in the history of adjunct advocacy. The power is shifting. I have heard this defeatist message repeated often, but I choose instead to change my situation rather than surrender. I hope you will join us. Our strength is in our unity.

      1. Melete

        I hope so much that you’re right, Josh! Only just discovered your site today, but on Monday I intend to tell friends in our adjunct faculty association plus former colleagues at GDU about your project. We also have an empathetic chair (he started his career as an adjunct, incredibly enough), and I also will share your project with him.

        It’s utterly incomprehensible that people who are said to comprise some 70% of the U.S. college and university faculty workforce don’t rate a living wage. But again…I would argue we’re not earning it because too many people either are desperate enough to accept any pay no matter how minuscule or simply don’t care what they earn. College and university administrators get away with what they do because they can get away with it.

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  29. beentherenowhere

    I get paid $2,500 at one school and $1,700 per class at my second school. No health insurance, obviously. This semester, 2 days before classes started, one of my classes I had signed for on my contract was taken away from me b/c a full-time prof. needed a class. No one ever explained to me why this wasn’t addressed way before (so that I could ask for a 4th class at the other, cheaper college). I sent a long, long letter, stating that if, as adjuncts, we were supposed to have the exact same quality of class as a full-time/tenured prof and we get nowhere near the same compensation for it, the only thing they can give as incentive and appreciation is guaranteed amount of money on contracts (even if a class is taken away). The reply is what I always get WHENEVER I bring an issue up to administration-like people; it essentially said, “I know, I am sorry, it was like that for me (when I was an adjunct).” That’s the excuse I love, “It was like that for me, so it must be for you.”

    1. finallyFTafter10yrs

      Unfortunately I just told an adjunct that they didn’t have a class again for the second semester this year. Our dept. tries to plan ahead and work with our adjuncts, but administration has been changing the rules on loads and how we schedule classes – at the last minute. So our department faculty are all scrambling during the last few days of registration trying to make sure we have our loads. We now tell our adjunct that we don’t know if they will have ANY classes at all, until registration is complete – with one weekend before classes start if they are lucky. Things are getting worse in the SE TX area.

  30. Meg


    In thinking about the ‘hall of fame’, I wish there was a way to evaluate issues other than simply pay. I’ve been an adjunct at 3 different schools, all of which made me feel different about going in to work each day. At one I had to request a key just to get into a big room that I could use as ‘office’ space along with all the other adjuncts on campus. At another, I was treated as an equal by tenure-track colleagues, invited to the president’s house for faculty events, given travel funds for conferences and given a regular office I shared with 1 other person who came in on alternate days. I would take that vastly superior situation over an extra $500 a month in a miserable hovel any day.

    1. Josh Boldt

      Good point, Meg. Others have mentioned that, as well. At my first adjunct job, we weren’t even allowed to have keys to visit our offices after hours. It would be ideal to include anecdotes like yours within the context of the rest of the data. Eventually, I’d like to conduct some interviews with adjuncts who can share stories and fill in some of the human aspects the data can’t reflect.

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  32. Irene Schmidt

    There are so many issues that come up in a great thread like this one, but the content of what we are saying collectively needs to be organized. One suggestion is that there really ought to be a single place to post such an outline, so we can stare at it and see “what are we missing?” Strategies can be grouped together in one place so that adjuncts that might engage in advocacy at their institutions can pick from a menu of ideas because, in my experience, some adjuncts are great at complaining but totally unimaginative in dealing with the problem or facing real retaliation factors about speaking out, yet they could engage in this national issue if provided concise ideas to try.

    Regarding conferences that list topics on/for/by contingent faculty: at what point are we continuing to recycle the same ideas, forever educating each other on the same issues, and at what point do we really start to dissect the problem into manageable pieces? Conference presenters might want to address contingency issues by levels of knowledge: introductory (for anyone NOT familiar with any issues), intermediate (for those that have started to discover the issues), and advanced (for those of you that have spent YEARS breaking this down, those at NFM, etc.). Contingent faculty may NOT be able to afford attending, but other conference goers might benefit from such a break-down.

    I would also add that we need a campaign that also identifies our BEST researchers that are excellent at providing us with data (Josh, great idea!) AND those BEST at dissemminating the information (from bloggers and texters on the digital highways to published writers that have already developed relationships with reputable organizations that have a large readership: NISOD newsletters, Inside Higher Ed, Chronicles of Higher Ed, AAUP). We need this type of “organization” as well as efforts locally and nationally to educate and mobilize people.

    Like many of you, I have spent years studying my own institution, trying to compare to national trends. I would break it down this way:

    I. Issues that pertain to Human Resources
    A. The Adjunct Contract: What is on it and what is not
    B. Employment Law
    C. Benefits: Tuition Reimbursement and ?
    D. Hybrid Employment: Designations (Faculty/Staff)
    E. Compensation Studies and Implementation
    II. Issues that pertain to Institutional Research
    A. Headcount: FT/PT faculty ratios
    B. Workload: FT/PT credit hours taught
    C. Institutional Surveys and Published Figures
    III. Issues that pertain to Governance
    A. The FT Master Agreement (Bargaining Unit affiliated with NEA)
    1. Limits Adjunct Compensation Scale
    2. Limits Adjunct Eligibility for Certain Awards
    B. Faculty Associations vs. Faculty Senates
    1. Representation Issues and Voting
    C. Roles Defined
    1. Board of Trustees
    2. Administration
    3. Faculty Deans and Chairs
    4. Committees
    5. Who are the Stakeholders?
    IV. Institutional Accreditation
    A. AQIP and Categories of Accreditation
    1. Interpretation of “Retention”
    2. Interpretation of “Valuing People”
    B. Internal Institutional Goals
    1. Quality Matters and Continuing Quality Improvement
    2. Strategic Planning Initiatives
    3. Innovative Strategies
    4. Balancing the Budget Strategically
    C. The Drive for Innovations
    1. Center for Innovation
    2. League of Innovation
    D. Staff Development
    1. Employee Training: Adjunct Certification
    2. Employee Recognition: Awards
    3. Conference Support: Grants
    V. Student Involvement
    A. Student Engagement
    1. Inside the Classroom (teaching methodologies)
    2. Outside the Classroom (clubs, etc.)
    B. Assessment
    1. National or State Standards: Student Learning Outcomes
    2. Responsibility for Assessment: FT or PT faculty?
    C. Curriculum Matters
    1. Development of New Courses (FT or PT faculty)
    2. Intellectual Property (Institutional or ??)
    D. Meeting Students’ Needs
    1. From Office Space to Cyber Space
    2. From Developmental to Honors
    3. From Absence Policies to Counseling Referrals

    This should provide ANYONE a starting point for conversations related to the workforce we are addressing: contingent workers. Any of the above issues generates its own dialogue.

    A problem I find in my advocacy for adjuncts in my community college is that adjuncts are all grouped together into one demographic when, in reality, some adjuncts have FT jobs (at the college or outside of it), some adjuncts are retired from FT employment, some receive benefits from spouses and only a fraction fit the “national profile” that is often portrayed.

    Another problem I find is that many are not educated about any of the above issues. Our Board of Trustees and top administrators retain a “macroview” of college issues and community concerns. Our adjuncts themselves are not aware of how the issues are interconnected, and may not even read emails I send out!

    I am an advocate primarily for “long-term” adjuncts who have served (practically as minimally-paid volunteers, an oxymoron for sure) for over 10, 15, or 20 years. Some still hold out a hope that a FT position might open up.

    Finally, recession or no recession, many community colleges are now faced with “succession planning”, meaning that many positions will be opening up due to increasing numbers of retirees. In fact, my institution has already planned a “job expo” for Spring 2013 and advertised in NISOD, but no one is developing a “grow our own” program. Adjuncts are already sick with the idea that we are hosting such a job expo (in the anticipation of about 300 openings for faculty and staff positions) and may not even consider the long-term adjuncts we have, many of which have received recognition for their teaching as “award recipients”. Some adjuncts are never even considered for a job interview. The silver lining is that these adjuncts might interview with other schools that might send HR reps to the job expo; since we are hosting the job expo, our adjuncts don’t have to travel, too. BUT, if we don’t give our own award-winning, long-term adjuncts a fair shot, this is where I continue to rattle the cages and bring these issues forward: to top VPs, to HR (doing a compensation study) and to a member of our BOT.

    I also started blogging about adjunct issues last fall and moderate an adjunct listserve at my institution. I am participating in the creation of a Faculty Senate (we have only ever had a Faculty Association), and I want to make sure adjuncts are well-represented. I stop short of draining my energy in pursuit of another bargaining unit since we don’t seem to fit the national profile. Arguably, many of our adjuncts are “happy” with status quo by their own admittance.

    I am also hoping to engage the debate nationally by attending the AAUP Conference on the State of Higher Education in June in Washington, DC. Our FT faculty are considering switching from NEA to AAUP, and that might offer membership to some adjuncts who are so inclined to join it.

    Hope to meet some of you there.

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  37. Remaining Strong

    I work at a small private school in the Midwest. I receive $141.67 per student per credit hour, for a maximum of $1635 for a 3 credit hour class. I also teach a series of one-on-one classes to fourteen students for $21 an hour, or roughly $4500 per semester. My first day of class was January 17. I received my contracts for each course today, 2/16/12, and will not be paid until March 30. In addition to teaching, I serve on committees, develop and maintain curriculum, coordinate facilities services for my area, and help with recruiting. While I do not get paid for these services, they help to keep me employed.

    I have a doctorate, and regularly perform at the national level in my field. I am published, and participate in several local and national associations in my specialty. I have received awards for my teaching, and perform the duties (and then some) of my tenured friends and colleagues at other institutions.

    Unfortunately, the job market in my area of expertise is so dire that people with my experience and more are flocking to positions like mine that pay $15000-$20000 a year. People like me are doing everything in their power to make themselves “employable”: we build our teaching resumes, go above and beyond to motivate students, and pursue scholarship opportunities in lieu of financial help from our institutions (though their names are listed in our bios in every program and journal to which we contribute). We do this to better ourselves, our work environments, and our chances at the all too elusive tenure track job. Every day we make a choice to add to our CV or continue to let our employers take advantage of us.

    I choose not to give the name of my institution for two reasons. First, I don’t wish to be reprimanded. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I know my school is doing the best it can. Everyone in my department, and in the University, is overworked and underpaid. The people that I work with and the students that I teach are good people. This abuse of pay is not personal, and I firmly believe that, were it possible, my school would pay a fair salary.

    Thank you for your research. I hope that in the coming years the pay inequality of adjunct faculty will be righted. I hope that the current trend in “downsizing” to overworked, underpaid adjuncts does not have staying power. Until there is a change, I will continue to forge ahead and keep my eyes on the vacancy lists.

  38. JJ

    Where I adjunct, I make $1200 to $1700 per class, depending on the school. Counting from August (and not the traditional year start for taxes), I’ve made about $11,000 by teaching nine adjunct classes. That was the first semester. This semester, I’m teaching four. I’ll probably get two to four classes in the summer. So, in the end, I estimate my yearly earnings will be around $19,000 or $20,000 for somewhere around 15 or 16 classes. Perhaps a bit more. I’ve decided I’m not doing nine adjunct classes again. It’s too hard to get that much work done without the students or me suffering greatly. Plus, work on research projects? Forget about it. I live in a Southern state, and I teach at a community college. I adjunct with an online non-profit college as well out of another state. That online work pays better per hour than the offline work, for the most part, at $1600 or thereabouts. It’s been kind of a difficult year because I’ve gotten so little research done so far. I hope with only four classes, I can get some work done on that, as it’s the only way to keep me marketable. I’ve concluded that I may have to move and try to break into another adjunct market as well as take work outside academia to stay afloat. It’s pretty brutal. I would weep with joy if I could teach a 4/4 load at $40,000.

  39. Carol

    I am a full time instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder (PhD 2007), and the base salary is within range of the ideal advocated by Michael Berube ($40,000 for 3/3 semester courses), plus we do get subsidized health and dental (at 50% FTI or greater), plus retirement. After reading some of the above posts, I am feeling better about my situation–yes it is very easy to complain about the travails of adjunct work, but the truth is I am very happy to be doing work that I love, and I never wanted a tenure track job. The problem I have is that there is no way to negotiate a higher salary based on experience or performance (though I think I am eligible for a small “merit pay” increase next year) — I have been teaching for 20 years (high school then college, beginning in graduate school); I also have a secondary teaching credential and spent years training grad students how to teach. Before I accepted this job offer, I tried hard to negotiate a higher salary and funds for even one academic conference per year, but there was nothing doing. Instructors supposedly don’t do research, though I challenge anyone in academia to explain how someone could remain relevant in a university classroom without their own ongoing research. I am now paid the same as a new instructor right out of grad school who has never taught before — and let’s be honest, $40,000 is not an adequate or respectful salary for a full time professional with a PhD (and CU is considering raising the teaching load to 4/4 for the same salary).

    And here’s a point I think is really important that hasn’t come up yet: that full time instructor salary constitutes the base pay upon which all additional university jobs are calculated. So for example, I am also an associate director of a campus program, which only pays an extra 2.5% of my base pay plus one course release. That comes to a measly $1000 extra per year for a great deal of additional work. Also, I am teaching a Study Abroad course overseas this summer (which I am super excited about–and this is another of the ways that I have figured out how to have work year round and increase my salary), but again I will be paid as a percentage of my base pay. Under this system tenure track faculty are always paid far more than non-tenure track faculty for the same work because our base pay differs so substantially. The director of my program (a full professor) suggested once that I should consider taking over his job some day, but I would be paid 25% extra on top of $40,000, while he is paid 25% extra on top of perhaps $100,000. This structural inequality just seems like a scam, especially when our universities rely so heavily on the contributions that non-tenure track faculty make.

    One final point: the figures that Michael Berube suggested are based on the instructor having a full time appointment, however I think $6800 is a reasonable remuneration for teaching one semester course whether one is hired full time or not. At CU there are a great number of us who teach only one or two courses per semester, and the honorarium is only $4300 per semester course. So last spring I pieced together three courses to teach, each in a separate department, to make a full time position for myself (to secure health insurance for my family), but since I wasn’t hired as a full time instructor by any one program or department, I only earned $12,900 instead of $20,000 for doing the same amount of work. And this does not even include the fact that economics and political science lecturers make almost twice as much as A&S lecturers!!

    Thank you, Josh, for opening this forum, it has been really interesting reading all the posts. I welcome feedback and insight that might give me a better perspective to adjust my views. I hope our work will help make this playing field more level for all of us.

  40. linda

    Long overdue. I always wondered when adjuncts would organize to fight an inherently Unfair Unjust system of wage pay.
    My community college pays me $2100 per English Comp class, and I have a PhD, and 2 Masters. Zero Benefits.

    Looking forward to some results before we alI leave academia to start businesses, leaving colleges with no teachers!!

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