How Adjunct Professors Pay the Bills

Over at the Adjunct Project, a pretty good discussion is developing today. A reader wrote in to ask how other adjuncts supplement their income, considering an adjunct professor’s salary generally isn’t enough to put food on the table.

The adjunct collective has been coming up with ideas. Some are satirical, like selling grades or stealing.

Other adjuncts offered advice like getting a real estate license or moonlighting as a banquet server. And, speaking of moonlighting, did you catch Rob Jenkins’s post this week at The Chronicle of Higher Education wherein he lamented the need to ask his dean if it was okay to moonlight as a tenured professor?

Jenkins piece focuses mainly on teaching at another university part-time, as opposed to picking up other low wage jobs like many adjuncts. Several commenters encouraged Chronicle readers to consider how adjuncts fit into this whole discussion, as well. For example, every class picked up by a tenured professor is one class taken away from an adjunct professor, which is probably why a Twitter respondent was prompted to challenge the Adjunct Project question itself:

And then there are the responses that truly drive home the seriousness of this discussion. A few people have mentioned their dependence on government assistance like food stamps.

Adjunct Recycling cans

A comment left by missoularedhead explains that she collected cans [for recycling] and had to ask her mom for grocery money. Keep in mind this is a professional with a PhD.

Missoularedhead’s comment indicates that she has since given up the adjunct life, as do some of the other comments. Can you blame them?

Reading comments like that makes me wonder why anyone continues to work as an adjunct professor. Sheesh. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Adjuncts understand the meaning of grit. Of working hard for a cause they believe in. Of sacrificing for the greater good.

Based on the twenty or so comments at time of publication, it looks like this could turn into a pretty interesting discussion full of heartbreaking personal stories and advice for those who are willing to stick it out and continue teaching despite the financial difficulties. Definitely one to keep an eye on over the next few days.

What about you? Are you an adjunct (or any contingent employee) struggling to make ends meet? How do you do it? How do you balance a job you’re passionate about with an income that doesn’t always cut it?

Leave your story in the comments or tweet me @josh_boldt.

  • Dahn Shaulis

    We need to publish an “adjunct survival guide” that compiles all of these, especially in accessing the safety net. I’m not sure how many new adjuncts know how to secure food stamps, medicaid, affordable housing, free or low cost health care.

  • josh_boldt

    Luckily, my school actually pays adjuncts enough to stay alive and the cost of living here is low. But mainly, I’m just applying to job after job, trying to get away from it altogether.

  • Jbrown3rd

    Interesting, that PhDs are put in the position to have to apply for food stamps when a politician can work for three days a month and collect as much as we get in four months.

  • VCVaile

    summer is coming to an end, but I was wondering how many adjuncts Turk ‘tween times,

    • josh_boldt

      I looked into that once, but it seemed like the pay was worse than adjuncting.

  • katiegal

    I have edited books, worked at multiple colleges, taught Business slang to expatriates working at local companies, and I have even given plasma and visited food banks during the hardest times (usually summer). I have a Master’s degree in Literature and and several classes toward my second Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. I am currently considering a different profession, although I love what I do. I want to eat and, almost as important as food (because I take what I do for a living seriously), I want to be respected for my skill set and talents!