The truth is adjuncts are struggling to meet their own needs, and thus struggling to do what they love: teach. About 22 percent of adjunct professors live BELOW the poverty line. That does not account for the thousands of others who live at or just above it, in a US economy who's "poverty line" would actually have to be doubled in the majority of it's cities for a family of three to afford basic living necessities. In short, many adjuncts are poor. With well over a 40 hour work week preparing curriculums, grading papers, and writing lectures, their pay generally averages out to about $10.00 an hour.
The starting pay at Starbucks is generally about $10.00.
Men and women who have dedicated their lives to academia are often taking on course loads on multiple campuses, in hopes of making ends meet. They have no idea if those same courses will be offered the next semester and must do what they can to make their money stretch. Many take jobs outside of academia, from retail to driving Uber to supplement income. Others need even more help. Twenty percent get earned income tax credit payments. Over 100,000 adjunct professors nationwide are on government assistance. Seven percent are on Medicaid.
With so much additional responsibility to survive, many adjuncts can't hold regular office hours at any of the campuses they teach. This comes at a huge disadvantage to their students who may need extra help, one-on-one tutoring, or to talk about the course. Still, colleges insist that the current model is the best way to serve its students. But the truth couldn't be any more clear: it's strictly about the money.
The sub-contractor business model is becoming increasingly popular in our "shared economy" society. But is it really working? Industries from Airbnb to shared rides are going before Congress and local and state governments as the demand for regulation is rising. The issue, of course, is not that jobs are getting created. The issue is that those working are getting exploited for the greed of the people at the top. Colleges and universities are no different.
Today, Brave New Films along with the New Faculty Majority, the National Education Association, the Association of American University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union, plus dozens of adjunct professors and students held a Congressional briefing on this pressing issue. What, sadly, will be one of the most educated rooms on Capitol Hill, will also be one of the poorest. They made their case that all colleges and universities need to prioritize adjunct salaries now; that the future of the countries best and brightest should not have to be juggled with numerous jobs to survive. And we should stand with them.
Watch the new short film Professors in Poverty. Allow the numbers to appall you. Then sign the petition and let everyone in Congress and the world of higher education know that we value higher education and the people who have given their lives to educate the future of this country.