Congress Documents Struggle of Adjunct Professors

Jan 28, 2014

One part-time faculty member says,"I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.” Others describe turning to food stamps and earning salaries below the federal poverty level. The comments are detailed in a new report from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The report is based on an online forum, launched by California Democrat Rep. George Miller and described in detail in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It highlights the challenges for part-time faculty, who face low salaries, few benefits and sudden bouts of unemployment.

The plight of adjunct faculty has gained more notice as colleges, looking to cut costs, have increased their use of part-timers and decreased tenured professors. In the comment section following the Chronicle's article about the study, one person remarked on the limited options for many Ph.D. holders.

For many of us in the humanities, especially those of us who spent years getting our Ph.D.s, there are no full-time jobs in our disciplines outside of academe. When I was in graduate school, we were told that the future was rosy, and that, as the majority of professors turned 60, or 65, we'd all have jobs. Well, they arrived at retirement age and still kept working. When they did retire, their departments didn't replace them, but hired several part-time faculty at a small fraction of the salary+benefits package of the previous profs.