Under Paid & Over Educated: Poor Professors

One of the first people I recruited for an adjunct faculty position at a well known online institution had one question, ”Do you offer tenured positions?”.  Even though the conversation took place over the phone, when I gave him the answer of “no”, I could see the disappointment in his face. That disappointment increased when he was informed that his salary for teaching for a semester would only be about $5,000 for 3 courses.

Once students graduate from college, many have the burden of student loans. On the flip-side, many of these faculty members, both adjunct and full-time, still live from paycheck to paycheck and not to far off from poverty.

In its annual survey, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) finds 76 percent of teachers in colleges and universities are what the organization calls “contingent,” meaning full-time faculty members who are off the secure and relatively well-paid tenure track or part-timers (often known as adjuncts) and graduate students.  The median pay for adjuncts is a paltry $2,700 for teaching a 3 month course, and that never includes health insurance or benefits. The median pay for adjuncts is just $2,700 for teaching a three-month course – and these professors are almost always on their own when it comes to health insurance and other benefits.

“There are PhD’s working as adjuncts and living in poverty, on food stamps, etc.,” an adjunct professor who lives and works in California wrote to NBC News. She is a poet with a master’s degree, who asked that we not identify her or her school for fear of losing her job.

“Despite the fact that I basically work full-time hours teaching, tending to administrative duties, and holding office hours,” she wrote, “I am on the verge of renting a garage apartment that does not have a kitchen or bathroom because that’s all I can afford (and barely).”

Most of the adjunct faculty I employed not only had a full-time job on top of their adjunct position, but also taught at more than one university. Their struggle is real.  But if you’re a full-time contingent employee, chances are you’re not able to handle multiple jobs.

The university I worked for even took it one step further. Although their pay scale wasn’t even close to its competitors, like the University of Phoenix, they refused to hire anyone with a degree from a for-profit university, nor would they explain why a person wasn’t hired after a candidate inquired.

No one goes into teaching at a university expecting to earn six figures, most do it for their love of education and teaching. It’s unfortunate that many universities in this country doesn’t put more of their high tuition costs towards the salary of the ones who practically keep the university running.



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